The Children Act is an interesting film about life and death, and the consequences of your actions. It offers stellar acting performances from Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci
Fiona Maye (Emma Thompson) is a High Court judge that procedurally makes life or death decisions in an attempt to uphold the law. She is tasked with determining if an underage cancer patient, Adam Henry (Fionn Whitehead), can refuse treatment due to his religious beliefs. Her decisions throughout the case cause a chain reaction that impacts the rest of the film. While all of this is happening, Fiona’s marriage to Jack Maye (Stanley Tucci) is falling apart.
At the beginning of The Children Act, we see Fiona as a stiff, unwavering judicial force. She’s a no-nonsense woman, and Thompson plays her to perfection. Fiona is fair, but just as she pays excruciating attention to detail and often loses herself in her work. If there’s any backlash, she ignores it and moves on to the next case. However, when Adam Henry’s case graces her court room, we see a crack in her armor, as she visits the boy in the hospital.
Adam Henry needs a blood transfusion if he has any hope of surviving his illness. He’s a Jehovah’s Witness, which means blood is the soul, and getting a transfusion is vehemently looked down upon in that religion. Not only would the transfusion go against his personal beliefs, but his parents and fellowship could potentially treat him like a different person. The judge is tasked with making a decision that could save Adam Henry’s life, or change it forever.
One issue with The Children Act is the stark contrast between Fiona’s work life and her home life. It’s not uncommon for someone to get so engrossed in their work that they ignore their personal life. However, Fiona has no problem seeing friends and attending functions. She only seems to have an issue understanding the simple questions her husband asks in order to keep their marriage alive.
Based on what’s presented in the film, it wouldn’t take much for Fiona to fix her marriage, but she seems lost with no explanation as to why this one aspect of her life evades her otherwise sound logic. This problem is compounded when Adam Henry comes into the picture and her decision-making skills once again become suspect. All of the culminates in a lot of nothing as the ending tries to offer an emotional high point, but instead falls flat.
While the acting in The Children Act is top notch across the board, it does very little to help a lacking story that feels as though something is missing. Perhaps the novel offers more insight into the actions of these characters, but that wasn’t translated to film very well. Instead, we get a tour de force of acting, with a plot that belongs in a prime time cable movie. The Children Act is not all bad, but the acting isn’t enough to save an otherwise lackluster experience.
Synopsis: As her marriage crumbles, a judge must decide a case involving a teenage boy who is refusing a blood transfusion on religious principle.
Director: Richard Eyre
Writers: Ian McEwan
Stars: Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci, Ben Chaplin
Runtime: 1 Hour, 45 Minutes