The Children Act
Stars: Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci, Fionn Whitehead, Ben Chaplin, Jadon Watkins
The second Ian McEwan adaptation of the year, following On Chesil Beach, is another well-acted but underwhelming slice of middle class angst. Thompson is Fiona Maye, a high court judge specialising in thorny child cases. We first encounter Maye deliberating over a case involving conjoined twins. Just after her husband Jack (a badly-served Tucci) announces that, due to her distant behaviour and preoccupation with work, he wants to pursue an affair with one of his younger colleagues, a life-altering case presents itself. Adam (Whitehead), a seventeen-year son of Jehovah’s Witness parents is refusing a life-saving blood transfusion. Fiona makes the unusual decision of going to see him at the hospital. There she finds a precocious, passionate young man, his intensity contrasting with her own joyless home life. Adhering to the titular law, she makes her decision regarding his treatment, with far-reaching consequences for Adam and herself. Thompson delivers a richly nuanced performance, particularly in the film’s quieter moments when communicating the character’s inner turmoil, but the picture never really sells the central relationship between Fiona and Adam, the latter a little too callow and plain odd. A suffocating middlebrow feel pervades throughout, Eyre’s direction is pedestrian and uninspired, while the script, adapted by McEwan, feels overly schematic and contrived. A selection of music from Bach adds to the sombre oh-so tastefulness. It probably doesn’t help that the similar(ish)-themed and vastly superior Apostasypreceded this release by a mere three weeks.