The Children’s Act

Emma Thompson, The Children Act

A serious review of a serious movie. I went to watch this movie for many reasons, some of which were:-

  • Emma Thompson’s abilities as an actress outweigh her proclivities as a speaker for the Left.
  • The movie is itself important, because it covers a little-known yet hugely-important part of the British Judicial system, the Courts which deal with matters concerning children below the legal age of Consent, and the cases which come before the Judges.
  • The movie deals with a clash between the religious principles of a minor, and of his parents, and the needs of a hospital and medics who only wish to do the job which they know must be done.

Emma Thompson’s High Court judge is, in the view of one who has always liked her performance on the screen, one of her very, very best. Her ‘Judge’ is a woman whose job has overcome her life, whose very relaxation time is taken by reviewing ever more legal subtleties on the cases which she gives her judicial word and opinion upon; a woman whose marriage has become little more than a shadow of what it once was. Her husband, superbly played by Stanley Tucci, resents the manner in which his marriage has been virtually sidelined by one important case after another, leaves her for a brief affair with a junior, but returns because even the shell is more appealing than the reality.

The ‘Judge’ is seen as she speeds through varied cases, ranging from a decision of whether one child should remain living after a set of conjoined twins is born, to a case where the father has taken his child out of the Courts’ jurisdiction. The Judge, having researched her precedents, give her judgements swiftly, and moves on.

But the real ‘spine’ of this movie revolves around the fact that the parents, Jehovah Witnesses both, in reality know that the vital blood transfusions which would save their son’s life; and at the same time are absolutely prohibited by their religion and by the elders of that religion, are the only means by which their son would be allowed to live. So they abdicate their own responsibilities, and, by forcing the hospital to go to the Court, ensure that their son will live without compromising their own religious beliefs. Their barrister makes a case for the treatment to be held back, but the barrister for the Hospital demolishes all her arguments by a cruel, but entirely factual, series of questions revolving around the whole idea of a dependence upon the roots and origins of the Bible, which, of course, the defence’s arguments depend upon.

Emma’s ‘Judge’ departs from normal practice, and visits the dying youth in hospital; and discovers a young man whose own love for music has just been ignited, and in a rare departure from Judicial aloofness, sings the words, penned by Yeats, along with the guitar playing of the stricken young Witness. She delivers her judgement, which goes against the religious tenets of the Witnesses, and the healing process begins; but she does not realise that the young man has developed feelings for her, and, during a work trip to Newcastle, discovers that he has followed her. She firmly rejects his immature advances, and sends him back to London.

She returns to her busy life, and practices at her piano for a Christmas concert with the barrister who appeared for the hospital. Tragedy, once abated, returns as the young man, now over the legal age of consent, is attacked once more by the leukaemia which first attacked him, refuses all medical intervention which his parents had ensured he would be given previously, and dies. The Judge sings the verses which she sang with the doomed boy, and Emma passes the raw intensity of those words to her audience as she sings. The film ends with her standing, alongside her husband, watching as the funeral proceeds.

I have only seen one other movie in a British cinema where perfect silence was observed throughout the performance: I think it was a significant salute to a film which far too few people will actually see. My own opinion? Simply superb!



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