MOVIE: THE CHILDREN ACT
STARRING: EMMA THOMPSON; STANLEY TUCCI; BEN CHAPLIN;
DIRECTED BY: RICHARD EYRE
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
The Children Act is a drama about the choices a person makes, specifically someone who makes incredibly difficult decisions for a living. Emma Thompson delivers another strong performance, playing judge Fiona Maye, who sits on the highest court in London, and is tasked with overseeing cases involving the life and death of children. Directed by Richard Eyre and written by Ian McEwan from his novel of the same title, The Children Act is a complex tale, where judge Maye must choose between saving a young man's life or letting his faith choose fate for him. Although sometimes unfocused, The Children Act has impressive performances all-around and presents an interesting moral quagmire for the audience to contemplate.
The opening scene involves judge Maye deciding on a case involving conjoined twins. The dilemma? If the children are kept together they will both die. If they are separated one will live, the other will pass. These are the types of cases that weigh heavy on Fiona's head and they have caused enormous stress on her marriage to husband Jack (Stanley Tucci). When Jack proposes to Fiona that he is going to have an affair, it's the last thing she expected, and needed. It is after this point where The Children Act turns on the dramatics, because the legal system never ends, as Fiona must focus in on her next case that encroaches on a more personal level than any case in the past.
The major case that becomes the focal point in The Children Act involves a young man named Adam (Fionn Whitehead). He is dying from Leukemia and in desperate need of a blood transfusion if he wants to survive. The problem, his family are Jehovah Witness’s, and through their beliefs and Adam's devout faith, they do not allow to have anyone putting someone else's blood inside of them. The clock is ticking and the decision is solely up to judge Maye, forced to decide between giving the hospital the rights to act, or respect the families wishes. Will her decision change his life? Or has it changed Fiona's life forever?
Director Richard Eyre has a history of making films that deal in relationships between older and younger people. Notes on a Scandal was about a teacher & student relationship, with the outside judgement of others. Iris was about a young relationship that blossomed into a loving marriage. And in The Children Act it's a bit of a combination of the two. Fiona's marriage has reached it's tipping point and Adam is a youthful injection into her life. The boy is a conflicted soul, believing in a religion he may not understand, and is he equipped to make the correct decisions under such stress? It also helps that Thompson is performing on top of her game again. The Remains of the Day star is poised, often in settings with Stanley Tucci in a luxury apartment that looks like a theater stage, perfect because the two work so well together.
The ending of The Children Act left me with a mixture of sadness and disappointment, not because it's bad, but maybe because I was expecting a more impactful third act. Overall though, this is a sold drama, the kind of work that was made to highlight an impeccable talent like Emma Thompson. If anything, The Children Act is a refreshing reminder that when given the right material, and a role with great depth such as Fiona Maye, Emma Thompson is the judge and we are witness to her power.
Written by: Leo Brady