The Children Act: Film Review

I love Emma Thompson and Stanley Tucci so I was very excited to see them together onscreen, and they both give impressive performances in The Children Act, which I didn’t really know what to make of. There were bits I loved and bits I didn’t, but I ultimately came away feeling pretty meh about the whole thing.

Thompson plays Fiona Maye, a high-powered judge, who is presented with a difficult moral dilemma. A 17-year-old boy named Adam Henry (Fionn Whitehead) has got leukemia and needs a blood transfusion and he will die without it, however, his parents Kevin and Naomi (Ben Chaplin and Eileen Walsh) are Jehovah’s witnesses and it’s against their religious beliefs, so the hospital has to fight the parents in court to save the boy. It is a huge decision that Fiona has to make, and she already had a lot on her plate due to marital troubles with her husband Jack (Tucci), who always come second to her work.

The court case was very interesting and it poses such a difficult ethical dilemma that it really makes you think about how you would rule if you were a judge. I thought that was the entire crux of the movie but so much happens after that and not at all what I expected. Adam, who Fiona went to visit in hospital, becomes obsessed with her and a bit of stalker and it’s hard to know if he was into her in a romantic way or a mother figure way. It was intriguing to watch but I didn’t like how it was resolved – it should have been upsetting and poignant but I didn’t feel it – and I would have liked more resolution with the marriage thread too.

You can’t deny the performances though – I haven’t seen Thompson act like that in a very long time. It was subtle and emotional and could have been very moving if I was more involved in the story. Tucci gave a strong turn as the long-suffering husband desperate for intimacy and attention, while Whitehead was good as the sick boy desperate to understand his second chance at life.

It’s a shame, given the meaty subject matter and the stellar acting on display that I didn’t love The Children Act more, especially as I usually love Ian McEwan‘s writing. I just wanted more, it didn’t feel like enough, and I wasn’t satisfied with the conclusion. At the end I gave a disappointed ‘oh, that’s it?’ because I was waiting for something else to happen, but it never did.

Side note: in the interest of full disclosure, I should probably note that I am actually in this film as an extra! It’s a blink and you’ll miss it part, but look for me in the back row of the congregation during the church scene. I’m in a khaki dress and black cardigan!

In cinemas Friday 24th August 


  1. […] the film (you can read my review here), Thompson plays a judge who has to decide whether a hospital should give a teenage boy a […]


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