The Children Act
Directed by: Director: Richard Eyre
Written by: Ian McEwan (screenplay) Based on Novel by Ian McEwan
Starring: Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci and Ben Chaplin
Run Time: 1h 45min
3 Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
In ‘The Children Act’ I believe I can safely say that Emma Thompson’s portrayal of a Judge named Fiona Maye, who’s going through the turmoil of making a life and death decision on a landmark case while at the same time her own life is going to hell, was the best part of the film. She very much makes ‘The Children Act’ worth seeing. Thompson was remarkable in this but then, when isn’t she?
The film opens on a different case involving whether or not to separate conjoined twins. The stronger infant would be saved if the procedure were to be done but the weaker of the two would die. Fiona has studied hard and tells the parents, who don’t want to risk losing one child over the other, as only God has the right to decide on life, that the court is a court of law, not of morals, and grants the hospital the right to perform the separation. This was a profoundly dramatic opening and totally captures your imagination with regards to her personality and how far she’s going to be willing to go to fight for, as the title suggests, a child.
In the meantime, we see that her husband Jack (Tucci) has been neglected. So much so that he informs her that he would like to have an affair. Since they live only her life, schedule things around when she can do them, give pecks on the cheek in passing if they pass one another, they’ll never get around to be the more adventurous couple they once were. This argument in movies against women working usually gets to me because it has never bothered men when they were the ones constantly working while the woman at home, but times have changed so if done correctly, it makes for a satisfying addition to the storyline and here it does the story justice. She stays stoic as she takes in what he’s doing and, though she doesn’t condone or accept his view of their marriage now as being ‘open,’ won’t show him exactly how much he has hurt her and how deeply she wishes she could stop him. In essence, make her judgment and stop him from ripping her heart out. Marriage doesn’t work that way.
She has plenty to keep her mind occupied, however. Her next case is to save a teenager named Adam (Fionn Whitehead) who’s just shy of his eighteenth birthday. He’s a Jehovah’s Witness who has Leukemia. Once again, a hospital can try and would most likely save his life if they could be allowed to give him a blood transfusion, something his parents strongly oppose. The doctor explains to Fiona that Adam’s red and white cell counts are dropping, that he’s fighting to breathe, could suffer blindness and brain damage because his body is no longer producing its own blood. Most likely, he’ll die an extremely horrible death. This weighs heavy on her as she listens to Adam’s father, Kevin (Chaplin) advocate not on behalf of his son’s life but on the will of the church. Yes, Adam wants to do what the church has told him is good for him but at his terribly young age, is dying good for Adam? Fiona makes the decision to go and meet with him because she wants to be sure he understands what’s at stake and will make her decision afterward. This is where the story goes off on a bit of a tangent. Not her decision on the case but, honestly, the rest of the film. For me, it gets chaotic and somewhat ridiculous, straying from the captivating story about this magnificent judge’s world crumbling to the ground to the tale of a love-sick teenager. Had it not strayed, this would have been a contender for awards, but the ending simply doesn’t hold water. The idea that she’s now responsible for his life, doesn’t get by me but at the same time, reverses the narrative about the fact that, though a flawed human being, she is a damn good judge! I would suggest seeing it. The performances are worth it but maybe wait for cable.