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Children Act, The


Stars: Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci, Fionn Whitehead, Ben Chaplin, Jason Watkins, Rosie Cavaliero, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Anthony Calf, Wendy Nottingham

Director: Richard Eyre

Another miserable little number from the pen of Ian McEwan, partially reminiscent of the old British film Life for Ruth, in that part of its plot involves the battle by authorities to overrule Jehovah's Witness parents and allow their 17-year-old son, dying from leukemia, to have a blood transfusion.

The film starts well, focussing on magistrate Fiona Maye (Thompson) and her considered judgments on difficult cases. Consumed by work, her personal life is in turmoil, as her caring American husband (Tucci) declares that, after nearly a year without sex, he's off to have an affair.

After meeting the dying boy, Adam (Whitehead) and singing along as he plays his guitar, Fiona rules that the transfusion must go ahead. Unfortunately, Adam becomes obsessed with her, following her everywhere, even when she travels to Newcastle.

Of course, there's a mutual attraction, but she turns him away with eventual tragic consequences.

Despite a lovely performance by Thompson, who almost gets away with the singing scene, the film is too often dull, slow and uncomfortably close to risibility. Tucci does what he can with his largely passive role, but Whitehead is not terribly convincing as the boy. And an exchange between counsel and the boy's father (Chaplin) seems endless.

But, for those who'll see Dame Emma in anything, she doesn't disappoint.

David Quinlan

UK/Germany 2017. UK Distributor: EntertainmentOne. Colour (unspecified).
105 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 20 Aug 2018