The Children Act #filmreview

I’m ambivalent about Ian McEwan as an author – Chesil Beach, tick; Atonement, hand wobble; Amsterdam, get me outta here. So finding out

The Children Act

was by McEwan made me pause. But Emma Thompson was playing the lead, a Family Court Judge called Fiona Maye which rather swung it for us.

Powerful women in film can sometimes slip into stereotypes but the subtly of McEwan’s characterisation and Thompson’s performance comes at you in a variety of ways. She’s used to dispensing the Wisdom, if not of Solomon then certainly involving life, death and family tragedy. The thing that strikes you is the focus, the intensity with which she absorbs what she needs to do her job while giving nothing away.

For someone whose whole raison d’être is to judge, she excludes judgement from her every move. You simply don’t know how she will react to the awful cases before her until she speaks. Hers is an extraordinary performance of powerful passivity.

The centre of the story surrounds a seventeen year old boy who has a form of leukemia which means, if he doesn’t have a blood transfusion, he will most likely die. But he is a Jehovah’s Witness as are his parents. The judge has to decide, on an emergency application, what is to be done. I won’t spoil how the story spins out, and the tension inherent in it. Suffice it to say it is not milked, gratuitous or in anyway unfair on the tenets of the faith portrayed by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It is really a story about the consuming nature of power and how those whose responsibility it is to determine the major decisions  in our society based on legal and ethical principles can find it crushing when they have to apply a similar set of judgements to their own private lives, especially if such lives are not running in such a controlled and ordered way as is the case in the courts.

There were moments when McEwan’s irritating inclination to tend to the absurd in how he has his characters behave threatened to make me scream at the screen but I managed to swallow my ire. He really needs an editor to tell him not to be an utter tit. I suppose he’s such a good seller, no publisher wants to slow the process of getting the books out there and these things are allowed to pass.  But suspending my aggravation so as to allow Emma Thompson to work her acting magic wasn’t hard; I’d crawl quite a distance and even go without ice cream to see her perform. If we worried who’d take over as our senior female actor, post Judi Dench, then there are several candidates happily – and Thompson is high on that list.

See it. You won’t be disappointed if you enjoy great acting.

gratuitous picture of the garden.. because I can!

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published two anthologies of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand and Life in a Flash. More will appear soon, including a memoir of my mother's last years. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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25 Responses to The Children Act #filmreview

  1. Ritu says:

    Now this sounds like something I could get my teeth into…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Geoff, this is a truly fascinating review. It would have to be very difficult to create a film around that particular scenario without being gratuitous in one way or another. Thank you — a very nicely done review. Happy weekend hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey Geoff – per your review, I’m intrigued enough to track this down just to validate that my mental image of “powerful passivity” is correct and would love to know just how portraying it might be accomplished. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for the recommendation, Geoff. I love Emma Thompson’s work. Will check it out when it becomes available on HBO here in the US.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: The Month of August – The Cotswolds – Global Housesitter x2

  6. willowdot21 says:

    It’s on my list 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m with you on this one re their work in general – loathe Ian MacEwan and love Emma Thompson. And my dislike of the state interfering in people’s personal religious and spiritual beliefs is up there with my feelings towards the work of IM too. So I’ll probably give this a miss 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You would give up Ice cream for Thompson. I’m in.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Juli Hoffman says:

    Sounds interesting. I’ll give it a watch. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love much of McEwan’s earlier stuff. I adored his _The Innocent_ but didn’t like this book of his all that much. I feel like his more recent books get too preachy. Absurd, I guess I can handle! But I think Thompson is a marvel, so might have to check this flick out. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Very well put. Yes preachy and smug. Sort of aren’t I clever to be able to do so much research. Get An Editor!! The basic idea is good so Thompson has something to get her teeth into

      Like

  11. I’m entirely with you on McEwan. In 1966, when I began Social Work, my boss, then called the Children’s Officer, had a court convened around a child’s hospital bed to ensure a blood transfusion

    Liked by 1 person

  12. JT Twissel says:

    My nephew died from leukemia so I think I’ll pass on this movie. But thanks for the review.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Charli Mills says:

    This is a film not on my radar so I’m pleased to learn of it. And lovely parting garden shot.

    Like

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