The Children Act (12a)
Adapted by Ian McEwen from his novel, this stately, moving drama follows a High Court judge for whom professional and personal crises collide as she approaches a critical ruling over the future of a sick teenager. An emotionally literate performance from Emma Thompson with immaculate direction from Richard Eyre.
Richard Eyre | UK | 2017 | 105 mins | 12a
“The Children Act feels utterly apiece with the original book, urbane, understated, handsomely realized and impeccably interpreted by a cast of superb actors. ” The Washington Post.
Ian McEwan adapted his own novel for film and it is both persuasive and almost absurd in an oddly entertaining way. Emma Thompson is superb as Fiona, the Judge who rules on a teenager’s (Adam) capacity to refuse life saving treatment. Adam and his family are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Fiona clearly crosses the line of judicial interest in visiting Adam without a phalanx of advisers. This formal introduction metamorphoses into something quite different, which is the crux of the film. Behind this we hear her play Bach piano pieces brilliantly, parlay with her legal clerk, Nigel, and continue to mess up her marriage. This sounds like a gloomy film, but is not. Adam is fairly creepy, so her investment in him is baffling rather than sad. The failing marriage is a misogynistic cliché and her screen husband is so shadowy a figure that their problems do not impact much. What you see is Thompson as an outstanding actress who also sings!
This is a restrained piece, an exposition of high-minded themes that delivers an emotional punch – just right for a Wednesday evening in Cranbrook. Even if you loathe McEwan’s introspections, you will warm to her and to the creepy kid: at least a bit.
Distinguished director Sir Richard Eyre has been friends with McEwan for over forty years and they decided to make a film of the book when it was still at its manuscript stage, provided they could get Emma to star in it and find a great boy to play Adam. Eyre said of Emma, “There is only one person in the world I can think of who can play the part and also would be able to raise the money. That is the killer combination.” He found Fionn Whitehead to play Adam and the film was made, and it has became in the words of Peter Debruge of Variety “…that rarest of things: an adult drama, written and interpreted with a sensitivity to mature human concerns.”
Weighted vote 93.4%