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