Following this year’s On Chesil Beach, directed by Dominic Cooke, a novel from the frequently adapted Ian McEwan is again the source for a film, The Children Act, a courtroom drama from director Richard Eyre. Emma Thompson stars as Honorable Justice Mrs. Fiona Maye, the judge tasked with a difficult case: 17-year-old Jehovah’s Witness Adam Henry (played by Dunkirk’s Fionn Whitehead) is battling cancer and facing high risk of death or deformity unless he accepts a blood transfusion, which is strictly prohibited by his religion. If he chooses life, he would be shunned by the only community he has.
Though Maye specializes in family matters, her own life is that of a clichéd working woman — one who struggles to balance the personal and professional. Her overlooked husband, Jack (Stanley Tucci), announces that their 11-month sex drought is pushing him toward an affair. That declaration inspires a cheesy flashback to better times and then a complicated plot twist when Adam, convinced to accept the blood transfusion, recovers and becomes obsessed with the woman who saved his life. Maye initially scolds Adam’s stalker ways but eventually becomes captivated with the boy, albeit in a manner that seems forced, utterly lacking chemistry, as if Thompson had discovered this plot development in the script just as she was shooting the scene. Thompson goes along with it as best she can, but it’s hard to watch this shift when we haven’t been given any believable reason why Maye would fall for Adam’s adolescent courtship and love poems.
Richard EyreEmma Thompson, Stanley Tucci, Fionn Whitehead, Ben Chaplin, Rupert VansittartIan McEwanA24