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The Children Act (2017)

2:27 | Trailer
As her marriage crumbles, a judge must decide a case involving a teenage boy who is refusing a blood transfusion on religious principle.


Richard Eyre


Ian McEwan (screenplay by), Ian McEwan (based on the novel by)
2 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »





Credited cast:
Stanley Tucci ... Jack Maye
Emma Thompson ... Fiona Maye
Ben Chaplin ... Kevin Henry
Fionn Whitehead ... Adam Henry
Jason Watkins ... Nigel Pauling
Nikki Amuka-Bird ... Amadia Kalu QC
Rosie Cavaliero ... Marina Green
Rupert Vansittart ... Sherwood Runcie
Anthony Calf ... Mark Berner
Nicholas Jones ... Professor Rodney Carter
Honey Holmes ... Director / Producer (as Angela Holmes)
Chris Wilson ... Barrister
Andrew Havill ... George
Eileen Walsh ... Naomi Henry
Shaquille Ali-Yebuah ... Jake
Learn more

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As her marriage to Jack Faye (Stanley Tucci) flounders, eminent High Court judge Fiona Maye (Dame Emma Thompson) has a life-changing decision to make at work - should she force a teenage boy, Adam Henry (Fionn Whitehead), to have the blood transfusion that will save his life? Her unorthodox visit to his hospital bedside has a profound impact on them both, stirring strong new emotions in the boy and long-buried feelings in her. Written by Duncan Kenworthy

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


We all make choices. Hers make history.



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for a sexual reference | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


This movie was based on the 2014 novel of the same name by Ian McEwan, who also wrote the screenplay. See more »


Throughout the film, her clerk and others address Fiona as 'my lady'; in reality they would simply call her 'judge'. 'My Lady' is a term of address used only in court. See more »


[First Lines]
Jack Maye: Are you coming to bed?
Fiona Maye: [continues typing without turning around to look at Jack] Hmm.
Jack Maye: Fi?
Fiona Maye: It's tomorrow, the... My conjoined twins. Judgement. I've got the bloody Archbishop of Westminster breathing down my neck.
See more »


Down by the Salley Gardens
written by William Butler Yeats and music by Herbert Hughes
performed by Fionn Whitehead (as Adam Henry) (Guitar), Emma Thompson (as Fiona Maye) (vocals)
See more »

User Reviews

"And the Oscar goes to"... (or should go to)... "Dame Emma Thompson".
26 August 2018 | by bob-the-movie-manSee all my reviews

Judge Maye (Thompson) is a childless wife to her loving husband Jack (Tucci), but is also a workaholic. This is driving the long-term couple to the point of infidelity: a fact the ever-focused Fiona - whose life, to her, probably feels to be in a perfect if selfish equilibrium - is oblivious to. With Fiona's intense but comfortable world about to cave in around her, her increasing stress is not helped by the latest case she is working on: one where Adam ( Fionn Whitehead from "Dunkirk"), a Jehovah's Witness boy and a minor, is refusing on religious grounds the blood transfusion he desperately needs to fight his lukaemia. Fiona's decisions in the months ahead go much further than a simple judgement on the case.

Two acting giants - one born in London; one born in New York - tower over this Ian McEwan adaptation like leviathons. I bandy around the phrase "national treasure" a lot in my reviews, but here Emma Thompson is simply breathtakingly powerful in the lead role of Judge Fiona Maye, exhibiting such extremes of emotion that you would like to think that an Oscar nomination would be assured. (However, before I run out and put a £10 bet on her to win, the film is such a small British film that unfortunately both a nomination and a win seem unlikely! THIS IS A CRIME! Please share and lobby people, lobby! Perhaps at the very least we can hope for some BAFTA recognition).

Sometimes a masterly lead performance can make a co-star performance seem unbalanced, but no such danger here. Stanley Tucci makes a perfect acting foil for Thompson: if he were a wine he would be described as "exasperation, frustration, compassion with strong notes of respect". And he carries it off with perfection.

This is an incredibly intelligent film, working on so many different levels and subject to so much interpretation. Fiona's feelings for the troubled teenager feel more maternal than sexual, but when those feelings become returned and escalate the whole piece develops a queasily oedipal quality. Many films have focused on illicit attractions between teacher and pupil, but here lies a new variation, with Maye fighting against her best professional insticts to 'do the right thing'. "I'm frightened of myself" she eventually wails to a colleague.

In his opening hospital scenes, (not withstanding the comic similarities between the guitar scene here and a certain scene in "Airplane"!), Adam seems completely other-wordly compared to a typical teen and this comes across as utterly false. That is, until you consider the oddness of his family background and Jehovah's Witness upbringing. As such, the film just about gets away with it. Whitehead does a good job with a difficult role.

If you've been in a court, you'll know that there is something regal and magical about a judge in full regalia entering a packed courtroom. So it's unusual to see the view from the other side of the door... a non-descript office corridor and a non-descript door. Helping the judge on this side of the door is her PA Nigel, played by the brilliant Jason Watkins: a TV regular (e.g. "Line of Duty", "W1A") but seen far less at the movies.

As a story of obsessive fixation, it borders on McEwan's disturbing earlier work "Enduring Love". And it has the potential to go in lots of interesting directions as a sort of bonkers platonic love triangle ("He wants to live with US?" splutters Tucci). Where the story does end up going was not particularly to my liking, and a melodramatic concert scene was - for me - a little overdone. However it does give rise to a scene (the 'sopping wet' scene) that shows Thompson at her most brilliant: if she DID get Oscar or BAFTA nominated then this will be her pre-announcement snippet.

It's a great film for showcasing acting talent, but beware: it's short on laughs, not remotely uplifting and takes a while to mentally recover from!

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Release Date:

14 September 2018 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Children Act See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$76,108, 16 September 2018

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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