Review by Ceri Wheeldon
“When a court determines any question with respect to … the upbringing of a child … the child’s welfare shall be the court’s paramount consideration.” The Children Act, 1989.
This is the platform on which the film is based. Judge Fiona Maye (played brilliantly by Emma Thompson) presides over complex cases relating to children. Her commitment to her work, and the ethical challenges she must address on a daily basis consume her life, and her long term marriage to Jack (played by Stanley Tucci) suffers as a result. He wants more from her, while Fiona believes that all long term married couples become more like siblings – and is not motivated to make any changes.
Things come to a head when Fiona has to rule on a complex case of a teenage boy who is refusing a much needed blood transfusion on the basis of being a Jehovah’s Witness. The hospital goes to court in opposition the boy’s family to gain permission for the transfusion to go ahead. Fiona takes an unorthodox approach as she decides the case, which creates an emotional bond with the boy , Adam (played by Fionn Whitehead). Post court decision that bond continues to impact both their lives.
As all of Fiona’s emotional energy is consumed by her work, she refuses to compromise in respect to her own marriage, and we see Fiona struggle on all fronts.
A grown up film
The film is extremely moving, and apart from the ethics and rationale behind the key court case in the film, we also see the turmoil caused by lack of communication and mismatched needs in a long term relationship, and the issues that surface when a career takes precedence over a marriage, and even having children.
This a grown up film with grown up performances. It is great to see Emma Thompson play such a meaty leading role and Stanley Tucci conveys the inner turmoil of his character as he faces the unhappiness he experiences in his marriage while still ultimately loving and respecting his wife. Is the film industry recognising that there is a huge audience wanting to see lead characters in our age group portraying characters we can relate to?
A moving film, offering lots to think about.
The Children Act is out in cinemas on Aug 24th. Well worth a visit!