Three more reviews - two from the trade press, Screen Daily and Variety, and one from an entertainment blog, Dork Shelf.
'The Children Act': Toronto Review
Screen Daily, Saturday, September 9, 2017
Emma Thompson stars in Ian McEwan’s adapation of his own novel opposite ’Dunkirk’’s Fionn Whitehead.
Emma Thompson loses herself in The Children Act, subsuming all her natural lightness to embody one of novelist Ian McEwan’s more fascinating characters, a High Court judge charged with implementing the titular Children Act in family court. When the remote, humane, but unheedingly autocratic Justice Maye slips and allows herself to connect on a human level with one of her cases, tiny cracks form at the edge of her carefully controlled existence, and threaten to shatter it.
While, as she clearly indicates, the law is paramount in her family court and the 1989 Children Act holds the welfare of the child to be paramount in all cases, Justice Fiona Maye is very much human, and the unthinkable decisions she has to make on a day-to-day basis are taking their toll. The biggest casualty is her marriage to Jack (Stanley Tucci). The judgement, for example, to separate conjoined twins, condemning one to a certain death, can only be made if she holds her emotions constantly in check, but that means her relationship, which is ironically childless, is dry and crumbling.
Like last year’s Denial, which also premiered in Toronto, this is a courtroom drama, but one which slides the focus off the case and onto the human making the decisions in a situation which is endlessly slippery. The Children Act is a cerebral piece, for sure, and a disturbing one by the end, but Thompson’s performance brings life to the complex moral questions it attempts to examine.
READ FULL REVIEW: https://www.screendaily.com/reviews/the-children-act-toronto-review/5121739.article
Toronto Film Review: Emma Thompson in 'The Children Act'
Variety, Saturday, September 9, 2017
A typically marvelous performance from Emma Thompson elevates what might have otherwise played as melodrama in this sophisticated Ian McEwan adaptation.
Told with a depth of empathy so profound — and so British — that a rather sizable segment of the viewing public will either reject or ignore it outright, “The Children Act” is that rarest of things: an adult drama, written and interpreted with a sensitivity to mature human concerns — not just the quite personal complexities of maintaining a 30-year relationship with no children of their own, but the more broad-reaching tension between the law and firmly held religious belief.
More restrained than director Eyre’s earlier work, yet driven by an energy for which he is directly responsible, the wonderfully nuanced film concerns Fiona’s attempts to reconcile these two weighty challenges: There is the fate of the Jehovah’s Witness, Adam Henry (Fionn Whitehead), which rests in her hands, and there is the future of her marriage, which she has successfully shifted to the back burner for so long, but now hangs in the balance.
Adam sits in his hospital bed holding a guitar, and in the first of several unabashedly sentimental such scenes, he and Fiona sing “Down by the Salley Gardens” together, a folk song whose words were written by Yeats.
Their song, “Down by the Salley Gardens,” and music by extension serves as a recurring motif here, as Fiona indulges but one extracurricular pastime: rehearsing piano with her friend Mark (Anthony Calf), a High Court barrister. That hobby sets up the film’s climactic emotional scene — one whose raw, wrenching power depends entirely on how successfully audiences consider every preceding element to have worked. Thompson interprets the moment beautifully, and indeed, the entire film hinges on how deeply felt her performance comes across. The actress is playing someone whose brain is constantly working, which she depicts as a kind of distraction: While her body is there in frame, her mind is often miles away, thinking of the children — those she’s saved, those she’s lost and those of her own which she and Jack will never have.
READ FULL REVIEW: http://variety.com/2017/film/reviews/the-children-act-review-emma-thompson-1202553219/
TIFF 2017: The Children Act
Dork Shelf, Saturday, September 9, 2017
Adapted from a Booker Prize-winning novel, The Children Act is certainly layered with meaning and importance. It’s clear from how the cast are acting really hard at all times and all the pregnant silences that what we are watching is supposed to be taken deeply, deeply seriously. Unfortunately all of the self-importance and stuffy dourness led to a film that feels dramatically inert. It’s about big ideas, yet is never remotely involving. That’s not good.
The Children Act is certainly a fine example of British stuffiness masquerading as drama. Emma Thompson is rather gifted at portraying that sort of thing (even though she seems about as far away from repressed as possible), so she’s always a pleasure to watch. Unfortunately, the film itself doesn’t quite live up to the performances. It touches on big ideas without really engaging in them, eventually succumbing to easy weepy melodrama in a way that robs the film of the naturalism it needs to succeed. Presumably the book allowed for so much more to be said between the lines than what fumbles onto the screen here. Oh well. That book still exists and it’s possible to pretend this movie doesn’t. So that’s a plus.
READ FULL REVIEW: http://dorkshelf.com/2017/09/09/tiff-2017-the-children-act/