Caper delivers the goods
Wid- selves. Davis’s Veronica is a singularly determined woman who easily fits into the role of gang leader, while Linda and Alice prove their mettle in a crunch. Australia’s Debicki, who towers over most of her co-stars, is extremely impressive in this role, and the casting of Jacki Weaver as her unconventional Polish-born mother adds to the enjoyment.
With its themes of political corruption and large-scale criminal activity, Widows is effortlessly transformed into an American setting. The dialogue is smart, the action is masterfully staged, and every member of the diverse cast is in top form. If you enjoy a good thriller, this should be high on your list. The title of Richard Eyre’s new film, The Children Act, refers to a piece of British legislation that, in 1989, was designed to protect the welfare of everyone under the age of 18. Scripted by Ian McEwan from his own novel, the film centres on the life, both professional and personal, of Fiona Maye ( Emma Thompson in a great performance), a dedicated family court judge who faces dauntingly difficult decisions every day.
Referred to formally, and rather quaintly, as “My Lady” by everyone in court as well as by her loyal clerk (Jason Watkins), she is first seen adjudicating over an almost impossibly difficult case involving Siamese twin boys: if they are not separated, both will die but if surgery goes ahead, as the doctors prescribe, one of the boys will die anyway; and their parents are opposed to any intervention. Faced with such life-anddeath decisions on a day-to-day basis, the workaholic judge has neglected her personal life. Her husband, Jack (Stanley Tucci), who teaches a university course on Christianity, and how it has been responsible for closing the mind, is supportive but frustrated and one evening announces what he plans to do about it — he intends to have an affair with a colleague, a woman who, the shocked Fiona recalls, damaged the floor of their apartment with her high heels when she came to dinner.
With her private life in turmoil, Fiona now faces yet another incredibly difficult legal decision, a decision very similar to that presented in another British film, Basil Dearden’s Life for Ruth (1962). The 17-year-old son of devout Jehovah’s Witnesses (Ben Chaplin, Eileen Walsh) is suffering from an aggressive form of leukaemia. He urgently requires a blood transfusion but, according to the beliefs of the family’s religion, the mixing of blood is a form of pollution and expressly forbidden by God.
The boy, Adam (Fionn Whitehead), apparently accepts his parents’ decision to disallow the transfusion, but Fiona breaks usual protocol to visit the boy in hospital and talk to him herself. This unorthodox decision leads to unexpected consequences and some unpredictable developments.
This is a film that poses important moral and legal questions, but it’s also a personal story in which a diligent woman, who regularly faces intense criticism from those who disagree with her judgments, has to confront several deeply troubling personal problems. Tucci underplays the key role of Jack, Whitehead is heartbreaking as the young man whose reactions to the judge’s interventions propel this intriguing contemporary drama, and Thompson shines in one of her most satisfying screen roles. Australian director Alena Lodkina’s strikingly fresh first feature, Strange Colours, was supported and developed by the Biennale College program of the Venice film festival and it’s probably fair to say that the project would have struggled to find funding in this country. That’s not a comment on the quality of the material but rather on its austere approach to narrative.
Milena (Kate Cheel) travels by bus from an unspecified city to the opal mining community of Lightning Ridge where her father (Daniel P. Jones) is ill. The pair have been estranged for a long time, but she visits him in his hospital bed, then moves into his house, an isolated, cluttered place obviously geared to the most basic bachelor living.
On the surface, nothing much happens. Some of her father’s friends, unkempt and with straggly beards, drop in to see her. They don’t really know what to say to her. She attempts to reconcile with her father. She meets a miner she likes (Justin Courtin) and decides to stay.
The title refers to the colours of the opals that are harvested underground in this remote place. And a very specific sense of place comes across strongly in Lodkina’s minimalist yet striking film. The isolated community, with its pub, ramshackle houses and underground opal mines, provides a vivid backdrop to a modest yet strangely haunting drama.