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Sunday October 21, 2018 4:00pm
Rainbow Theatre, Northumberland Mall, Cobourg

children actFiona Maye (Thompson) is an eminent High Court judge in London presiding with wisdom and compassion over ethically complex cases of family law. But she has paid a heavy personal price for her workload, and her marriage to American professor Jack (Tucci) is at a breaking point. In this moment of personal crisis, Fiona is asked to rule on the case of Adam (Whitehead), a brilliant boy who is refusing the blood transfusion that will save his life. Adam is three months from his 18th birthday and still legally a child. Should Fiona force him to live? Fiona visits Adam in the hospital and their meeting has a profound emotional impact on them both, stirring strong new emotions in the boy and long-buried feelings in her.

Cast: Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci, Fionn Whitehead
Rating: R (for a sexual reference)
Genre: Drama
Director: Richard Eyre
Runtime: 105 minutes
Language: English

by Angus Wolfe Murray

High court judges have private lives although their public image is that of a legal arbiter who is emotionally null and dull.

The law is the law is a bore.

children act1 450Ian McEwan's latest, based on his novel, scripted by the author, proves to be light years away from the disappointing On Chesil Beach. It is intelligent, disciplined, elegant and closely guarded in matters of privacy. Nowhere does McEwan break cover. He remains true to his original concept that work and desire are the oil and water of civilized society.

This sounds as dry as a fisherman's fly, but the film has a heart that beats against the bars of its cage. Rules protect us from chaos. Without them rational thought would be terrorised by moral bandits.

Fiona Maye (Emma Thompson) is a successful judge, although how you quantify these things is anyone's guess, working with cases involving children and teenagers under the age of consent, often resolving life and death decisions of a medical nature. At home things are falling apart. Her husband (Stanley Tucci) suffers from the side effects of his wife's workaholism, such as no sex. Being taken for granted comes with the territory but a bedroom shutdown feels personal. He decides to have an affair and tells her before it starts. She is devastated. Life as normal, which ignores his needs, is her security. He says he loves her. She says she loves him. What does this mean? What does anything mean?

children act2 450In court she is involved in the case of a 17-year-old boy (Fionn Whitehead), son of Jehovah's Witnesses, who refuses to accept a blood transfusion that would save his life. She breaks with convention to visit the boy in hospital to try to discover whether his religious conviction is a mirror of his parents' beliefs, or his own in the full knowledge of what will happen to him if he refuses.

She makes her decision. The boy lives and becomes obsessed, infatuated even, by the lady Maye, while she is torn between empathy and duty as the atmosphere at home freezes over.

Richard Eyre's direction is as delicate as a June morning and Thompson gives a performance that deserves a standing ovation. Forget the early days of Tutti Frutti and the fun stuff, she has emerged as Meryl Streep's equal at the top of the actors' pinnacle. As Judge Maye she carries herself with dignity and her audience with gratitude.