Emma Thompson enforces ‘The Children Act’ on HBO Max

Emma Thompson and Stanley Tucci in the film from Ian McEwan and Richard Eyre

Emma Thompson is superb in The Children Act (2018) as the British justice who specializes in child law and cases involving the welfare of minors.

She commits all to the job and over the years has given up her personal life to take on the responsibility, to the point that she has disengaged from her marriage and barely even communicates with her husband (Stanley Tucci), who loves her but really, really needs some physical affection. Or at least her attention for a few moments. Her new case involves a 17-year-old boy with leukemia (Fionn Whitehead) who needs a blood transfusion but belongs to a church that forbids it and she ends up establishing a brief connection with the young man that she immediately disconnects from once the case is over. But he doesn’t.

Ian McEwan adapts his own novel and Richard Eyre (Iris and Notes on a Scandal and former director of London’s National Theater) directs, creating an intimacy for a drama about a devoted judge who has distanced herself from intimacy and seemingly lost the capacity to understand how emotion cannot simply be swept away with reason.

Rated R

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The Children Act [DVD]

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Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears at RogerEbert.com, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.

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