Keep up-to-date on your favourite artists and movies, track gig and release dates, and join in the conversation.
SEARCH RESULTS FOR
259 feature films. 19 days. 1 city. The Melbourne International Film Festival is underway - check out our reviews here!x
review, The Children Act, The, Children, Act, film, movie, latest movies, new movie, movie ratings, current movie reviews, latest films, recent movies, current movies, movie critics, new movie reviews, latest movie reviews, latest movies out, the latest movies, review film, latest cinema releases, Australian reviews, cinema, cinema reviews, Emma Thompson, Fionn Whitehead, Stanley Tucci, Ben Chaplin, Wendy Nottingham, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Jason Watkins, Rupert Vansittart, Anthony Calf, Eileen Walsh, Richard Eyre film rating

THE CHILDREN ACT

★★

JUDGING THE JUDGE

THEATRICAL REVIEW
LATEST REVIEWS
By Chris Edwards
21st November 2018

Though it's only now limping into cinemas over a year after its bow at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival, one could make the argument that ‘The Children Act’ forms an interesting opposite side of the same coin as Steven Spielberg and Meryl Streep’s ‘The Post’ – each an adult drama reminiscent of a bygone era, hinging on the decision-making process of a powerful woman of a certain age.

I guess the main difference between the two films, though, is that where ‘The Post’ is good, ‘The Children Act’ is, well... bad. Quite bad, in fact.

Let me explain. Adapted from his own novel by markedly hit-and-miss purveyor of melodrama Ian McEwan (author of ‘Atonement’), the film follows High Court judge Fiona Maye (Emma Thompson, magnificent as always) as she is besieged with dramatic decision-making duties in both her professional and personal lives. In the former, she must rule on whether a 17 year-old Jehovah’s Witness on death’s door (Fionn Whitehead, making good on the promise of ‘Dunkirk’) should be forced to accept the blood transfusion that would go against his faith yet save his life; and in the latter, she must deal with her husband (Stanley Tucci, forever daddy) announcing that he intends to have an affair because of how invested in their marriage he is, leaving her to decide whether she should file for divorce or suffer this indignity for the sake of their lives together.

'THE CHILDREN ACT' TRAILER

Such overly tidy thematic parallels are, of course, de rigueur for literary adaptations of this type, but that doesn’t make them any less unbearable in this dull collection of po-faced contrivances masquerading as mature, thoughtful drama. Were it not for the Herculean efforts of Emma Thompson - still one of the most dependably and rigorously intelligent performers working today - there wouldn’t be a single trace of recognisable human behaviour in the entirety of director Richard Eyre’s resounding misfire (the delicious camp of his ‘Notes on a Scandal’ and the emotional acuity of his ‘Iris’ seem very long ago, indeed).

Amongst last-minute races across town, bewildering confrontations and completely incomprehensible lapses in judgment, Thompson, blessedly, is somehow able to find the intellectual spark behind a fascinating woman that the script and direction keep trying to obscure. Somehow, she is able to delineate the shades of buried sorrow and the weight of the constant cerebral deliberations that lie in wait behind her prickly demeanour. Unlike the film around her, Thompson never makes the mistake of judging her character for daring to be a woman that some would describe as "cold" or "removed", instead finding the reserved nuance that the film itself so sorely lacks.

For one, the film reveals itself upon closer inspection to be almost entirely thematically vacant. Sure, it may look like it has lofty ambitions towards actual thought, but there really isn’t any there there, y’know? Uninterested in the science vs religion debate that you would think would be at its centre, the story races through Fiona’s decision-making process but doesn’t really let us dwell on the consequences of her decisions either. Instead, it so strangely front-loads all of her acts of narrative drive that for the entire second hour she is reduced to listening and watching as the men around her make active choices and grand statements to, for and about her, while she merely sits glumly and barely responds to them. It makes it annoyingly transparent that this is the clumsy idea two men have of a powerful woman, so stymied is the character by the plot machinations around her. (Which is also to say nothing of the fact that apparently this is a woman who almost never interacts with other women – get her and ‘A Star Is Born’s' Ally in a room together to talk about unimaginative male screenwriters, stat.)

Thompson, blessedly, is somehow able to find the intellectual spark behind a fascinating woman that the script and direction keep trying to obscure

Most upsetting, however, are the film’s visuals. With a genre that used to be a staple of film and now is so rarely seen outside of TV, it becomes increasingly frustrating to watch a film so blithely waste its cinematic potential. Directed as if Eyre had watched a Nancy Meyers movie and thought her mastery of every shade of beige a bit too garish, the film is so visually anaemic as to inspire concern. London has never been more washed out or colourless – London! Seriously. Even worse, it looks as if the dreaded motion smoothing feature that plagues modern televisions has been adapted for the big screen, so profoundly ugly is the ineptitude behind the film’s digital photography and possibly non-existent colour grading.

It’s genuinely disappointing to see a film like this – beloved female star, intelligent author, proven director – so thoroughly miss the mark, yet that’s exactly what ‘The Children Act’ does. Emma Thompson deserves so, so much better. Now please, give it to her.

FAST FACTS
RELEASE DATE: 22/11/2018
RUN TIME: 1h 45m
CAST: Emma Thompson
Fionn Whitehead
Stanley Tucci
Ben Chaplin
Wendy Nottingham
Nikki Amuka-Bird
Jason Watkins
Rupert Vansittart
Anthony Calf
Eileen Walsh
DIRECTOR: Richard Eyre
WRITER: Ian McEwan
PRODUCER: Duncan Kenworthy
TOP-RATED REVIEWS
The Nightingale - A dark, vengeful song
TRENDINGWIN THE NIGHTINGALEA dark, vengeful song
Amazing Grace - A stunning moment from Aretha Franklin's life
TRENDINGWIN AMAZING GRACEA stunning moment from Aretha Franklin's life
Portrait of a Lady on Fire - A perfect film on the language of desire
TRENDINGPORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIREA perfect film on the language of desire
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood - Another Tarantino classic
TRENDINGONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOODAnother Tarantino classic
The Australian Dream - The conversation Australia needs to have
TRENDINGTHE AUSTRALIAN DREAMThe conversation Australia needs to have
Cerulean Blue - Promising debut for a new voice in Australian cinema
TRENDINGCERULEAN BLUEPromising debut for a new voice in Australian cinema
Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan - Close to home
TRENDINGDANGER CLOSE: THE BATTLE OF LONG TANClose to home
The Seer and the Unseen - Elves and environmentalism under the Northern Lights
TRENDINGTHE SEER AND THE UNSEENElves and environmentalism under the Northern Lights
Top End Wedding - Outback fantastic
TRENDINGTOP END WEDDINGOutback fantastic
You Don't Nomi - 'Showgirls': shit or masterpiece of shit?
TRENDINGYOU DON'T NOMI'Showgirls': shit or masterpiece of shit?
Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw - Very furious, not so fast
TRENDINGFAST & FURIOUS: HOBBS & SHAWVery furious, not so fast
Children of the Sea - Sunk by a soggy script
TRENDINGCHILDREN OF THE SEASunk by a soggy script
Melbourne International Film Festival 2019 - The reviews
TRENDINGMELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2019The reviews
The Nightingale - A blunt and brutal period piece
TRENDINGTHE NIGHTINGALEA blunt and brutal period piece
Pain and Glory - Almodóvar delivers a rhapsodic masterwork
TRENDINGPAIN AND GLORYAlmodóvar delivers a rhapsodic masterwork
Parasite - A bloodthirsty and very funny look at class warfare
TRENDINGPARASITEA bloodthirsty and very funny look at class warfare
Judy & Punch - A dark fairytale from a fresh Australian voice
TRENDINGJUDY & PUNCHA dark fairytale from a fresh Australian voice
The Amazing Johnathan Documentary - Whose documentary is it anyway?
TRENDINGTHE AMAZING JOHNATHAN DOCUMENTARYWhose documentary is it anyway?
The Miracle of the Little Prince - A time capsule of dying languages and civilisations
TRENDINGTHE MIRACLE OF THE LITTLE PRINCEA time capsule of dying languages and civilisations
A Dog's Journey - Barking up the same tree for a third time
TRENDINGA DOG'S JOURNEYBarking up the same tree for a third time
© 2011 - 2019 midnightproductions
All rights reserved

Support SWITCH | Disclaimer | Contact Us