With a stellar performance from Emma Thompson, The Children Act tells a moving story of a judge who must decide on life or death.
British High Court judge Fiona Maye (Emma Thompson) is given the sole responsibility of well, choosing life or death for a minor. The minor in question is Adam Henry (Fionn Whitehead). He’s suffering from leukemia and is denying the hospital from giving him a blood transfusion. Even though it’s the very thing that could save his life, he’s putting his religious beliefs first. His beliefs tell him that such transfusions are not allowed by G-d. (Editor’s note: I’m Jewish. The Torah commands us to save one’s life even if it means breaking another law.)
There’s a lot of commentary to be said about how one’s religious beliefs are in disagreement with the law of the land. The Judaic religion has commentary on the matter in which “the law of the land is the law.” But I’m getting sidetracked here. The point is that Justice Maye has a duty to protect Adam’s life whether he wishes it or not.
While the whole case is going on, Maye’s husband, Jack (Stanley Tucci) feels out of place in their marriage. Jack openly tells Fiona that he’s going to have an affair. Better to inform your significant other than go behind their back, right? That’s being courteous on his part! In all fairness, Jack is upset because Fi’s work duties have prevented them from getting intimate in 11 months. So Jack disappears in the night to get together with mathematician Melanie.
Let’s get back to Adam. Fiona visits him in the hospital to get to know him. Once she sees his guitar and they duet, it changes everything. She didn’t need to visit him because she was always going to rule in accordance with the law. Because Adam is a minor, he would not be getting his way. If he were 18 years old, the film simply wouldn’t exist or would be about another child.
“His life is more precious than his dignity,” Fiona says in her judgement.
What happens as a result of the judgement is probably every judge’s worst fear. Adam stars to stalk Fiona. Whether it’s phone calls, letters, showing unannounced at her office, the list goes on and on. He even wants to live with her! He turns to straight up harassing the woman who extended his life! The film, directed by Richard Eyre from Ian McEwan’s screenplay, premiered in Toronto last year weeks before the world began to change.
There is something to be said about the way novelist Ian McEwan adapts his work for the screen. This film, along with On Chesil Beach, premiered at the same time last September. Upon watching the film, I felt a theatrical feel to this one as well. There were times in which scenes were so silent in which one can hear the sound of a pen drop. This was a much stronger outing for a McEwan adaptation.
Emma Thompson is nothing but amazing in this film. Her work is so stellar. I could watch her ruling on court cases all day. She’s surrounded by some great actors of course. Stanley Tucci is a professional. I love how he plays up his lines with a humorous bent.
Fionn Whitehead proved himself with a prominent role in last summer’s Dunkirk. Make no mistake that the actor a star on the rise. I love how he plays the role here.
The Children Act has so much going for it by being a well-directed and well-acted film.
DIRECTOR: Richard Eyre
SCREENWRITER: Ian McEwan
CAST: Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci, Fionn Whitehead