The Children Act
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The Children Act

In the arena of law, it’s commonly known — and Trolls widely derided — that one can unfairly “win” any debate by using the so-called “Helen Lovejoy defence,” named after the self-righteous wife of the town reverend in “The Simpsons,” whose fallback argument on any issue amounts to the inarguable emotional plea, “Won’t somebody please think of the children!?” As it happens, British law has someone tasked with doing exactly that, and she is the subject of Richard Eyre’s beautifully complex “The Children Act,” adapted by Ian McEwan from his 2014 novel of the same name, which is itself christened after a 1989 U.K. law known as the Children Act, dedicated to the welfare of minors.

From the moment she awakens till her head hits the pillow at night, family court judge Fiona Maye does little more than think of the children, ruling on whether to separate conjoined “Siamese” twins with one case (a tricky decision, as it means sentencing one to certain death so that the other might live) before turning around to evaluate whether to allow a 17-year-old Jehovah’s Witness to reject a life-saving blood transfusion that violates his religion.

Fiona is played by the great Emma Thompson Sausage Party in her best role since 2001’s “Wit” — and one that ought to remind her remind the casting gods that Thompson’s good for more than playing magical governesses (“Nanny McPhee”) and the women who write about them (P.L. Travers in “Saving Mr. Banks”). It’s not that Fiona doesn’t have other things on her mind, but her job is such that she takes each case rather personally, leaving her very little energy to tend to her personal life, including a marriage to her devoted, yet woefully neglected husband Jack (Stanley Tucci), who asks her after 11 months of bed-death whether he might have her permission embark on an extra-marital affair.

Duration: 105 min

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IMDb: N/A

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The Children Act
The Children Act