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Emma Thompson and Fionn Whitehead in The Children Act.Entertainment One

  • The Children Act
  • Directed by Richard Eyre
  • Written by Ian McEwan
  • Starring Emma Thompson
  • Classification 14A; 105 minutes


2.5 out of 4 stars

What should take preference: the laws of society or the tenets of a religion? When should a child be granted permission to make “adult” decisions? Do beliefs trump facts?

In this smart, if sentimental, adaptation of Ian McEwan’s 2014 novel of the same name, Emma Thompson plays a British High Court Judge tasked with rendering a decision with, literally, life and death consequences: whether a 17-year-old Jehovah’s Witness (Dunkirk’s Fionn Whitehead) should be forced to receive a blood transfusion, against his will, that will potentially save his life.

While Whitehead, as a young man torn between the teachings of his church and the untapped possibilities of adulthood, delivers a performance both disturbing and touching, and Stanley Tucci exudes warmth as Thompson’s restless husband (he comes across as the world’s most-lovable philanderer), it’s Thompson who carries the film, both literally – she’s rarely off-screen – and emotionally.

The burden of this particular case weighs down almost every line of dialogue, registers in almost every expression on her face. The ending, slightly altered and more Hollywood-friendly, is one of the few aspects that doesn’t quite ring true.

The Children Act opens across Canada Sept. 14

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