The Children Act


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The Children Act
"Intelligent, disciplined, elegant and closely guarded in matters of privacy"

High court judges have private lives although their public image is that of a legal arbiter who is emotionally null and dull.

The law is the law is a bore.

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Ian McEwan's latest, based on his novel, scripted by the author, proves to be light years away from the disappointing On Chesil Beach. It is intelligent, disciplined, elegant and closely guarded in matters of privacy. Nowhere does McEwan break cover. He remains true to his original concept that work and desire are the oil and water of civilised society.

This sounds as dry as a fisherman's fly, but the film has a heart that beats against the bars of its cage. Rules protect us from chaos. Without them rational thought would be terrorised by moral bandits.

Fiona Maye (Emma Thompson) is a successful judge, although how you quantify these things is anyone's guess, working with cases involving children and teenagers under the age of consent, often resolving life and death decisions of a medical nature. At home things are falling apart. Her husband (Stanley Tucci) suffers from the side effects of his wife's workaholism, such as no sex. Being taken for granted comes with the territory but a bedroom shutdown feels personal. He decides to have an affair and tells her before it starts. She is devastated. Life as normal, which ignores his needs, is her security. He says he loves her. She says she loves him. What does this mean? What does anything mean?

In court she is involved in the case of a 17-year-old boy (Fionn Whitehead), son of Jehovah's Witnesses, who refuses to accept a blood transfusion that would save his life. She breaks with convention to visit the boy in hospital to try to discover whether his religious conviction is a mirror of his parents' beliefs, or his own in the full knowledge of what will happen to him if he refuses.

She makes her decision. The boy lives and becomes obsessed, infatuated even, by the lady Maye, while she is torn between empathy and duty as the atmosphere at home freezes over.

Richard Eyre's direction is as delicate as a June morning and Thompson gives a performance that deserves a standing ovation. Forget the early days of Tutti Frutti and the fun stuff, she has emerged as Meryl Streep's equal at the top of the actors' pinnacle. As Judge Maye she carries herself with dignity and her audience with gratitude.

Reviewed on: 23 Aug 2018
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A high court lady judge has an agonising decision to make when a teenage boy refuses a life saving transfusion while at home her marriage is freezing over
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Director: Richard Eyre

Writer: Ian McEwan, based on the novel by Ian McEwan

Starring: Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci, Fionn Whitehead, Ben Chaplin, Rosie Cavaliero, Jason Watkins, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Honey Holmes, Rupert Vansittart, Nicholas Jones, Anthony Calf, Flor Ferraco, Raphael Desprez, Hiten Patel, Eileen Walsh

Year: 2017

Runtime: 105 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: United Kingdom


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