Monday, 27 August 2018

The Children Act

This would be a completely wonderful film were it not for a far-fetched plot that stretches believability further than it should. The narrative arc is perfectly elliptical but the problem is, its destination. The screenplay is written by Ian McEwan who adapted it from his novel of the same name. I am told that it sticks quite faithfully to the book. This is a story where the central character's professional life mirrors her personal life but she is too blind to be able to see it - and therefore powerless and therefore unable, to do anything about it. It is also a film that explores the interaction between rationalism, faith and emotion.

The casting and sheer weight of the performances are what carry the film. Emma Thompson as The Honourable Mrs Justice Maye is irresistible. Her clarity of thought, her obedience to logic, her terse interaction with Counsel, her expansive vocabulary and sheer presence make her an indomitable High Court Judge. Then one day, along comes a case that has a standard and well-rehearsed judgement that she chooses to complicate by allowing her objectivity to depart. The rest of the film is about the impact on this momentary lapse of reason - particularly on the individual whom the case centres on.

Stanley Tucci plays her husband as Academic Jack. A sensitive and sympathetic performance that adds a dynamic to the story that is as tangible as it is tragic. Jason Watkins puts in an endearing performance as the Justice's Clerk - the epitome of efficiency, anticipation and discretion.

The dialogue is filled with great one-liners such as "Life is more precious than dignity", "Is the Anglican Church a cult?", "I'm always too busy. The law can take over your life.", "Why is anything wrong, torture, dying, being unfaithful in your marriage?".

This film is brim full with passion and will provoke much reflection about a wide range of issues. It is an invitational mirror. Even with such a stumble in the story, this film is well worth watching. It is deeply engaging, allows a view into the life our privileged judiciary and reminds that at the end of the day we are all simply human becomings. Go watch it - you won't be disappointed. I'll give it 8/10.

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