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Code 46 (2003)

R  |   |  Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi  |  17 September 2004 (UK)
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Ratings: 6.3/10 from 17,499 users   Metascore: 57/100
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A futuristic 'Brief Encounter', a love story in which the romance is doomed by genetic incompatibility.

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Nabil Elouahabi ...
Sarah Backhouse ...
Weather Girl
Jonathan Ibbotson ...
Sphinx Receptionist
Emil Marwa ...
Lien Nguyin ...
Singer in Nightclub
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Damian Alekan


Code 46 is a love story set in a Brave New World-type near-future where cities are heavily controlled and only accessible through checkpoints. People cannot travel unless they have "papeles" (papers in Spanish; words and sentences in many languages, especially Spanish, French and Chinese are mixed with English in this new world), a special travel permit issued by the totalitarian government, the "Sphinx". Outside these cities, the desert has taken over and shanty towns are jammed with non-citizens - people without IDs forced to live primitive lives. William is a family man who works as a government investigator. When he is sent to Shanghai to solve a case of fake IDs, he meets a woman named Maria. Although he realizes she is behind the forgeries, he cannot help but fall completely in love with her. He hides her crime and they have a wild, passionate affair that can only last as long as his visa: 24 hours. Back home, William is obsessed with the memory of Maria. When the original ... Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Can you miss someone you don't remember? See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for a scene of sexuality, including brief graphic nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

17 September 2004 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Código 46  »

Box Office


$7,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$20,170 (USA) (6 August 2004)


$197,148 (USA) (27 August 2004)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Mick Jones of The Clash sings the Clash song "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" in the karaoke-esque club scene, but he appears to get the words wrong. The song goes "If I go there will be trouble. If I STAY it will be double", but he sings "If I go there will be trouble. If I GO it will be double". See more »


The numerous seeming "errors in geography" are actually an intentional artistic choice. Because the film is set in a future where global cultures have become thoroughly merged, Michael Winterbottom purposely blended footage shot in Shanghai, Dubai and Rajastahn so that Shanghai has a desert outside it, etc. See more »


[first lines]
Title Card: code 46 / article 1 / any human being who shares the same nuclear gene set as another human being is deemed to be genetically identical. the relations of one are the relations of all. / due to IVF, DI embryo splitting and cloning techniques it is necessary to prevent any accidental or deliberate genetically incestuous reproduction. / therefore: / i. all prospective parents should be genetically screened before conception. if they have 100%, 50% or 25% genetic identity, they are not...
See more »


Featured in Obtaining Cover: Inside Code 46 (2004) See more »


No Woman No Cry
Written by Vincent Ford
Used by Permission of Fifty-Six Hope Road Music Limited/
Odnil Music Limited/Blue Mountain Music Limited
All Rights for the World Administered by Rykomusic Limited
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User Reviews

The plot is almost secondary for such a great deal of the film and you can't really get a feel for what it is actually about.
14 March 2004 | by (Birmingham, UK) – See all my reviews

I had the pleasure and the privilege of attending a screening of this film recently. It had been unveiled in an incomplete state at the Venice film festival and in a more complete state at the Rotterdam festival last year. It has since been re-edited and was played for the first time to close the Birmingham Screen Festival ahead of its worldwide release later in the year (probably August/September).

It is the newest collaboration between British director and writer team, Michael Winterbottom and Frank Cottrell Boyce. It stars Tim Robbins and upcoming British actress Samantha Morton (Minority Report, In America, Morvern Callar).

It is set in a near future where a worldwide law (Code 46) makes the marriage of two people with genetic similarities illegal. The idea is that many cloned embryos are produced by IVF and so there are a number of genetically identical people in the world. So the potential is there for you to meet someone who is genetically related to you, so everyone must be screened before they marry. Any births resulting from Code 46 liaisons are terminated.

The plot is almost secondary for such a great deal of the film and you can't really get a feel for what it is actually about until very close to the end, and that is what made it so refreshing for me. It was more about the feel of the places, the emotions of the two characters (Robbins and Morton) and their developing relationship. You really don't know much about this futuristic society that people are now living in, or why it came to be like that. It reminded me of Hitchcock in that he would have a plot feature that was necessary for the whole story to take place, but it was almost secondary to the story itself (Hitch called it 'the macguffin'). An example of this is the stolen diamonds in North By Northwest.

In those respects it reminded me of Lost In Translation in that it was more about some subconcious feeling you got from the film, the characters and the whole atmosphere than about plot points. It makes it confusing and you wonder whether you'll get to the end without knowing anything, but when the end comes you've found yourself having actually picked up lots of information unwittingly. And more importantly, you really feel for and love the two characters. And I really loved the fact that while the film doesn't end on a low point, it isn't the happy ending you might expect (and indeed hope) of the two characters.

The obvious references are similar films like Blade Runner and Brave New World, but while it is a futuristic setting its not doused in sci-fi overtones. It looks fresh and stylish and is the result of shooting partly on film and partly on DV and utilising numerous digital effects. The very low budget of the film also meant that they couldn't build any large sets, so instead the film is made entirely on location (Shanghai, middle east and Westminster tube station in London).

We were treated to a Q&A with one of the actors and with the producer who gave a great deal of insight into the film, and I for one left the cinema feeling very lucky to have seen it.

When its in cinemas later in the year I recommend you go and see it. I know for a certainty that a lot of people won't like it because it lacks those obvious plot points from the outset, but instead it doesn't take you by the hand to its conclusion.

One of my new favourite films I'm sure.

93 of 118 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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