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the children act

DIRECTOR: Richard Eyre (iris, notes on a scandal)
STARRING: emma thompson, fionn whitehead, jason watkins, and stanley tucci


REVIEWER: lyall carter


In the midst of a marital crisis, a High Court judge must decide if she should order a life-saving blood transfusion for a teen with cancer despite his family's refusal to accept medical treatment for religious reasons.

As I'm interested in church and state relations, ethics, and theology I was intrigued when I saw the trailer for The Children Act. I thought that here would be a film that would grapple with the big issues of faith, the state, and personal liberty. I couldn't have been more wrong or disappointed. 

Judge Fiona Maye has to preside over the case of Adam Henry, a 17 year old teenager who is refusing to have a blood transfusion on religious grounds, and decide whether the hospital can proceed with the transfusion. 

The issue of refusing treatment on religious grounds is dealt with even handedly until it comes to the testimony of the doctor and Adam's father. The doctor is portrayed as upper class and educated. When asked if he is a Christian he sneers; "I'm an Anglican." Adam's father on the other hand is portrayed as an uneducated working class alcoholic. Its just too much of a cliched caricature that feels more like lazy writing and character development than anything else. 

And that could all be forgiven but its the linch pin relationship/obsession that drives the plot of the film that falls so staggeringly short. Judge Fiona Maye visits Adam in hospital to determine if it really is him making the decision to refuse treatment. Immediately he is obsessed with her. Why? We are never given the answer. The irony is that for a film that implicitly turns its nose up at the religious it requires a monumental leap of faith in regards to character motive from its audience based on no logical rationale whatsoever. 

Emma Thompson does her best with it and gives a very good performance. Standout has to be the wonderful Jason Watkins who does so much with such a small role as Judge Maye's clark. 

A film that decries faith yet requires its audience to take a monumental plot leap of faith without any rationale basis. 


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