Directors: Richard Eyre
Starring: Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci, Fionn Whitehead
“…and justice for all”
From Richard Eyre comes The Children Act, based on the novel of the same name by Ian McEwan. The movie focuses on Justice Fiona Maye (Thompson), a judge tasked with handling the case of a dying boy, Adam (Whitehead) who is refusing a blood transfusion on religious grounds, whilst at the same time dealing with her disintegrating marriage with detached husband Jack (Tucci). Now, I haven’t read the source material so cannot compare quality, however, the movie adaptation is a very solid affair.
Academy Award Winner Emma Thompson is her dependably excellent self throughout, conveying the varying range of emotions that the situations she finds herself in call for and is never anything but great. Similarly, Tucci and Whitehead as the spare part husband and unsettled young patient respectively are very good in their supporting roles.
Narratively, it’s really a two-parter. The first half of the movie deals with the legal side of proceedings and Maye deals with life-and-death cases in the public eye and also the ‘Adam’ case begins. There’s a great pace to how everything unfolds and each event is given just the correct amount of time to breathe and characters to develop well. The relationship issues facing Maye and Jack are also excellently portrayed. It’s a really good opening half that sets up drama, intrigue, and tension as well – especially in the case of Adam, as he is not shown and is only mentioned in court multiple times as his Jehovah’s Witness parents argue against the law for him. The second half takes a slight deviation and isn’t as effective as the more gripping opening half. It still feels like the same movie, but the urgency seems misplaced and the emotion layered on.
The Children Act at times looks like a cinematic TV movie, which isn’t a bad thing necessarily. The cobbled London streets and humourless courtrooms are captured well and the plush pad that Maye lives in makes me slightly envious. Shakespeare in Love composer Stephen Warbeck delivers an unobtrusive score that hums away in the background pleasantly.
Dealing with a heavy, and probable, subject, this is very much an ‘adult’ drama – it all just feels very mature. With all of its combined elements, The Children Act is a solid affair on all counts.
September 19th 2018