Cert 12A 105mins Stars 3

Emma Thompson gives a vintage performance in this tasteful, safe and straightforward British drama.

She dominates every scene with a portrait of well-healed middle-class middle aged angst, and is brilliant at conveying her mood with the merest glance or gesture.

As Fiona, she’s a piano-playing high court judge who suffers a personal and professional crisis. And Stanley Tucci is a toxic mix of charm and self-pitying entitlement as her husband, Jack, who one evening casually announces his intention to have an affair.

Meanwhile at work she has to decide whether to allow doctors to deliver a blood transfusion to a 17 year old boy who’s suffering leukaemia. 

As a devout Jehovah’s Witness, Adam’s refusing treatment because it’s against his religious principals, and the compassionate Fiona takes the unprecedented course of meeting him before making judgement.

Last seen in last year as Tommy, in Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece, Dunkirk, which was filmed before this, Fionn Whitehead is full of righteous conviction, and Adam charms Fiona with his artless honesty.

After they bond over a shared love of music, this quickly turns to committed adulation and begins a course of events which end in tragedy.

For a film dressed in judicial livery and medical scrubs, and full of conversations littered with religious allusions, it’s not really interested in the law, medicine or religion.

The screenplay was adapted by Ian McEwan from his 2014 novel of the same name, and we find ourselves plodding across the writer’s familiar stamping ground, exploring the destructive power of infatuation and infidelity.

Though director Richard Eyre previously made 2001’s Oscar-winning, Iris and 2006’s Notes On A Scandal, his lengthy career has mostly been spent in theatre and it shows in his closeted staging. Even a brief stay in Newcastle is spent mostly in a stuffy wood-panelled drawing room.

But this aside, after careful consideration my verdict is The Children Act is guilty of being a superior Sunday night entertainment.

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