As her marriage to Jack Maye (Stanley Tucci) depletes, High Court judge Fiona Maye (Emma Thompson) has to make a decision that will change lives forever, both her own and that of a teenage boy called Adam (Fionn Whitehead) and his parents (Ben Chaplin, Eileen Walsh). Should High Court judge Fiona Maye legally compel Adam to have a blood transfusion? An operation could possibly save his life, despite it going against his faith as Jehovah’s Witness. Her left of field visit to his hospital bed effects them both in a huge way, revealing buried emotions (from her) and new ones from a boy / young man who has been told what and how to believe his whole life.
The emotional resonance of The Children Act was epic. Much akin to the entirety of The Hate U Give and many scenes Black Panther, this is the only other 2018 release to get to me on a visceral level. Based on the book by Ian McEwan (Atonement, The Child in Time), this film successfully balances troubled martial relations with a depiction of religious freedom in the decisions of life and death. The Children Act is an easy 2018 Top 5 performance from Emma Thompson (King Lear). We have a good performance from Stanley Tucci (Feud) and an interesting look at the English legal system (and social commentary), plus some great scenery shots of the English countryside.
What I look for in many films (or TV series) is whether I walk away feeling challenged. Not all films are designed for that purpose but I do find that many distributed by A24, including: Eighth Grade, 20th Century Women and The Vanishing of Sydney Hall left me thinking and challenged. Intellectually satisfied. The Children Act is one of the most thought-provoking films I’ve seen this year. It’s a character study on a woman fighting between rationale and emotion, faith and logic, love and life. The film doesn’t end with the final judgement. That’s simply how it begins, with the fallout being the life of the boy who this ruling effects and the consequences of being forced to live.
Emma Thompson is a national treasure and I think she might be a silent contender for a Best Actress nomination. However, this film might be so small as to miss the eyes of Hollywood and the Academy. Throughout her career, she has done a lot of great films. From Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility (which she also wrote) to The Remains of the Day to Harry Potter to Howard’s End to Saving Mr Banks (playing Mary Poppins author P. L. Travers) to King Lear; yes, indeed, she is a national treasure and Thompson as Maye is a worthy addition to her list of roles that deserve an Oscar nomination. At the very least, nominations for the SAGs and BAFTA should be in order.
From the acting (including a great supporting performance from Tucci) to cinematography to musical score (Stephen Warbeck) to the social commentary, The Children Act is much alike Goodbye Christopher Robin and Miss Sloane in 2017.