The Children Act

Film, Drama
3 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(3user reviews)
The Children Act

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Emma Thompson shines in the Ian McEwan adaptation.

If you want someone to play a compassionate, conflicted High Court judge, look no further than Emma Thompson – heck, she could probably become one if she put her mind to it. The actor is a triumph in this Ian McEwan adaptation. She plays Fiona Maye, a judge who must decide whether to force a blood transfusion on a young patient who’s refusing the treatment on the grounds of his beliefs as a Jehovah’s Witness. Taking the unconventional decision to visit Adam (a terrific Fionn Whitehead) in hospital, she forms a bond with the leukemia sufferer that proves to be unwise. Whitehead builds on his ‘Dunkirk’ success with a charismatic, thoughtful performance, but we’re left wanting to know more about Adam’s motivations in a story that has other tales to tell.

‘The Children Act’ isn’t just a courtroom drama; it’s also a portrait of a marriage in crisis. Feeling pushed out by his workaholic wife, Fiona’s husband (Stanley Tucci) is open about his desire to have an affair but conflicted by his devotion to her. It’s not the kind of relationship we often see on screen but McEwan’s screenplay flits between home, courtroom and hospital without feeling clear in its direction. Each scene is beautifully performed and there are moments of profound emotion, but it stops short of the brilliance of Richard Eyre’s ‘Notes on a Scandal’.

By: Anna Smith



Release details

Release date:
Friday August 24 2018
105 mins

Cast and crew

Richard Eyre
Ian McEwan
Fionn Whitehead
Emma Thompson
Stanley Tucci

Users say (3)

4 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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1 person listening

This starts really well - impeccable direction and wonderful acting, but Ian McEwan's screenplay of his own novel veers towards the melodramatic and unrealistic and is just hard to swallow at times. I wasn't a fan of Enduring Love either to be honest. He's a much better novelist than a screenplay-writer. As a movie it is saved by Thompson and Tucci - and a moving use of music - but just about.


Who doesn’t love Emma Thompson.

Interesting film, which makes us think about moral conundrums that faith and religions create that sometimes bring us to life or death decisions.

It also touches on the subject of love versus career and the toll one can have on the other.


Emma Thompson really is a superstar. As a high court judge, she must rule over matters of children's life and death as a matter of her everyday work life. It is little wonder that she is consumed by cases and work load. Her marriage is suffering. Stanley Tucci plays her loving but saddened husband. Saddened by his wife's lack of time spent with him over the years.

The other star of the film is Fionn Whitehead who plays a seventeen year-old boy with leukaemia, a Jehovah's Witness whose parents are of the same faith. Should the high court judge rule forcing him to have a blood transfusion thus saving his life or allow his parents and Adam to have the final say and prevent a transfusion with dire consequences?

This is a moving and thought-provoking film.