The Children Act ensures that exemplary storytelling is safeguarded and its welfare promoted.
Inspired by an evening spent in the company of Sir Alan Ward and his esteemed colleagues, novelist Ian McEwan (Atonement, On Chesil Beach) was opportunistically exposed to the written accounts of appeal court judge’s own judgements, which for the writer read like short stories.
These stories were not what you would expect. For many of us, when we think of courts, or the judicial system our minds instantly jump to crime and punishment. What McEwan found was much, much more relatable, as these stories were based on the family division.
Some years later Sir Alan shared with McEwan the story of a Jehovah’s Witness case. The thought of a judge driven by compassion as well as intent evoked something profound in the writer.
The result shows as The Children Act is an original unbiased story where the characters are rich and complex.
Having worked together previously on The Imitation Gamein the late 70s and The Ploughman’s Lunchin ’81, McEwan and Richard Ayre had vowed they would work together again. Little did they know, that thirty plus years would elapse before they would reunite, and forge their collaborative efforts.
For the Notes on a Scandal director there was only one leading lady he had in mind to play Fiona Maye, the Family Division, High Court Judge, and that was Emma Thompson.
Thompson has an undisputedly accomplished body of work. Who can forget that heart-breaking moment in Love Actuallywhen her character comes to realisation that her husband’s fidelity is in question? Name me a women that couldn’t associate with that pain?!
In The Children ActI wonder whether the respected actress has been given the opportunity to explore this emotional torment to a deeper extent.
Childless and in her 50s Fiona Maye’s marriage is in trouble, her husband Jack played so subtly by Stanley Tucci (Spotlight) confronts her. Their lack of intimacy over the last year has created a void in their relationship, a void which if not filled, he warns, will result in him finding solace elsewhere.
For a woman who is used to being in control and unable to display emotion, she immerses herself in the safety of her work.
She is presented with a case that requires her immediate attention. Adam Henry has Leukaemia and is in desperate need of a blood transfusion. The problem is that on the eve of his 18thbirthday Adam is of Jehovah Witness faith and as such is not permitted to receive the lifesaving treatment.
Adam still considered a minor, is refusing treatment. Maye will need to decide to rule in favour of the medical profession who wish to save his life, or follow the wishes of a dying boy.
Paramount for the judge is the Children Act 1989, to ensure children are safeguarded and their welfare is promoted.
Maye makes an unorthodox decision to visit Adam in hospital to hear whether his decision to die a painful, debilitating death is truly his wishes, or whether he is under pressure by his peers.
An inner strength admired by the seasoned judge and in the few moments in which they are acquainted there becomes a connection, an affinity that will have a lasting effect on both of them.
For most of us, going to court is quite an alien experience. One of the many ways in which the film works is in creating a routine and the normality of life for those who work in the courts. There’s a real sense of propriety, steeped in tradition and history.
The Children Actwill present an unorthodox love triangle, between husband, wife and a son she never had. Could this desperately sick child be the one that finally heals Maye?