The Children Act

BBB

(out of 5)


 plays a judge whose cases mostly involved minors and who frequently has to apply the law to cases that are sensitive (the film opens with her debating the choice of separating conjoined twins).  On the day that her husband () informs her that he wants to have an affair with another woman to offset the distance that her job has put between them, she gets an explosive case that becomes a lengthy ordeal for her: a teenager dying of leukemia who is not yet eighteen () is refusing a blood transfusion because his beliefs as a Jehovah’s Witness prohibit his accepting the treatment, and his overseeing physician wants the court to intervene and force him to accept.  Thompson hears arguments from the medical experts as well as the boy’s parents before deciding that she must go see him personally, opening her life up to complications that, despite the superb work being time by the luminous star of this adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel, are never all that explosive thanks to director Richard Eyre’s devotion to cold primness.  Thompson’s interactions with Whitehead are fascinating until they hit a familiar trope in McEwan’s stories, that of a regular person having an oddball obsessed with them.  Whatever conversation about an issue or situation that was happening before is now so personal that it obscures all that came before it, almost as if the author doesn’t know his way out of the story in any other way (Enduring Love also featured this disingenuous bait and switch).  That said, this section of the story still sails well above Thompson’s scenes with Tucci, which are written and directed and, in Tucci’s case, performed like bad community theatre.  As a vehicle for Thompson, however, the film is the juiciest showcase for her talents since Saving Mr. Banks, particularly as she spends a good deal of screen time listening to others speak and, being the lively and intelligent performer she is, she does so with her usual exceptional charisma.  A third act that even Graham Greene would balk at reaches histrionic levels of dramatic manipulation, but it’s a respectable film that will work for those who need things to tie up neatly.


, ,

United Kingdom, 2017

Directed by

Screenplay by , based on his novel

Cinematography by

Produced by

Music by

Production Design by

Costume Design by

Film Editing by

Film Festivals:


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