The idea of the laws of religion and the laws of society clashing is an interesting theme for a film. The Children Act uses such themes to craft it’s story around court judge Fiona Maye (the usually uncompromisable Emma Thompson) as she attempts to make a decision whether or not the courts will force a 17 year old boy to have a blood transfusion to save his life since both he and his parents are refusing the treatment due to being Jehovah’s Witnesses. Whilst the premise itself is fairly stock standard in terms of drama, I was interested to see how the subject matter would be presented and dealt with on what is a very real issue in society.
The Children Act has everything a good drama needs to be successful. Interesting subject matter, accomplished lead actors in Emma Thompson and Stanley Tucci, a screenplay that is based on a novel both of which were penned by established writer Ian McEwan, a director, Richard Eyre, who has a catalogue of dramatic thrillers under his belt and the film is produced by BBC Film Studios. All the right ingredients are here for a fantastic and engaging drama. Unfortunately what The Children Act ended up as is less Oscar bait and more Sunday Night Melodrama on TV1.
It is difficult to say exactly what makes The Children Act such a bore but at the end of the day this is what it is. A people study of sorts with some interesting ideas that are never really dealt with in a way that hooks you in as an audience member. The pace is slow, the actors, whilst extremely talented, feel like they have little to work with in terms of character development and the music and direction makes the drama feel so heightened with such force that it attempts to escalate the content into something far more engaging than it actually is. Sadly the characters are never really developed fully enough and the storytelling and character tropes that are used are leaning on the cliche rather than exploring something new. You couldn’t possibly be high ranking female court judge without your marriage suffering am I right?
The Children Act does take the story in a slightly different direction in it’s last 3rd and although this was a suprising twist in the story (that I won’t go into here) it wasn’t developed or realised fully enough to be engaging and therefore we end up with two acts that feel disconnected and half baked rather than the thoroughly engaging piece I was hoping for. Your Grandma may love watching it on Sunday night after Miss Marple but sadly I don’t think it will go any further than that.
– Ashton Brown