EMMA Thomp­son gives a vin­tage per­for­mance in this taste­ful, safe and straight­for­ward Bri­tish drama. She dom­i­nates every scene with a por­trait of well-heeled, mid­dle-class, mid­dle-aged angst, and is bril­liant at con­vey­ing her mood with the mer­est glance or ges­ture.

As Fiona, she’s a pi­ano-play­ing high court judge who suf­fers a per­sonal and pro­fes­sional cri­sis. Stan­ley Tucci is a toxic mix of charm and self-pity­ing en­ti­tle­ment as her hus­band Jack, who one evening ca­su­ally an­nounces his in­ten­tion to have an af­fair.

Mean­while, at work, Fiona has to de­cide whether to al­low doc­tors to de­liver a blood trans­fu­sion to a 17-year-old boy who’s suf­fer­ing leukaemia. As a de­vout Je­ho­vah’s Wit­ness, Adam’s re­fus­ing treat­ment be­cause it’s against his re­li­gious prin­ci­ples, and the com­pas­sion­ate Fiona takes the un­prece­dented course of meet­ing him be­fore mak­ing her judg­ment.

Last seen play­ing Tommy in Christo­pher Nolan’s mas­ter­piece Dunkirk, Fionn White­head is full of right­eous con­vic­tion as Adam and charms Fiona with his art­less hon­esty.

After they bond over a shared love of mu­sic, this quickly turns to com­mit­ted adu­la­tion and so be­gins a course of events that end in tragedy.

For a film dressed in ju­di­cial liv­ery and med­i­cal scrubs, and full of con­ver­sa­tions lit­tered with re­li­gious al­lu­sions, it’s not re­ally in­ter­ested in the law, medicine or re­li­gion. The screen­play was adapted by Ian McE­wan from his 2014 novel of the same name, and the film plods across McE­wan’s fa­mil­iar stamp­ing ground, ex­plor­ing the de­struc­tive power of in­fat­u­a­tion and in­fi­delity.

Though di­rec­tor Richard Eyre pre­vi­ously made 2001’s Os­car-win­ning Iris and 2006’s Notes On A Scan­dal, his lengthy ca­reer has mostly been spent in the­atre and it shows in his clos­eted stag­ing.

Even a brief stay in New­cas­tle is spent mostly in a stuffy wood-pan­elled draw­ing room.

But this aside, after care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion, my ver­dict is The Chil­dren Act is only guilty of be­ing a su­pe­rior piece of Sun­day night en­ter­tain­ment.

Fionn White­head, who im­pressed in Dunkirk, gives a solid show­ing as trou­bled Adam Emma Thomp­son is su­perb as a judge thrown into tur­moil by a dif­fi­cult case

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