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REVIEW: "The Children Act"

By Eric Hillis, TheMovieWaffler.com

originally published: 08/25/2018

REVIEW: "The Children Act"

Earlier this year saw the release of On Chesil Beach, an adaptation of an Ian McEwan novel centered around a wealthy musician who can’t bring herself to have sex with her husband. Now we get The Children Act, an adaptation of an Ian McEwan novel centred around a wealthy musician who can’t bring herself to have sex with her husband. Both are scripted by the novelist himself, and both suggest McEwan should stick to the literary world.

Have you ever watched a James Bond movie and come away wishing the film had followed the mission 007 wraps up in the pre-credits sequence rather than the one it subsequently devoted two hours to? I came away from The Children Act with the same feeling. When we first meet its protagonist, frosty High Court judge Fiona Maye (Emma Thompson), she’s delivering her verdict on a long-running case involving the separation of conjoined twins. This seems a far more fertile plotline than the one that comes to form the main narrative of McEwan and director Richard Eyre’s film, especially given its proximity to recent high profile real life UK High Court cases.

Instead, both the movie and Fiona move on to the case of Adam (Fionn Whitehead), a 17-year-old Jehovah’s Witness whose parents are denying him a life-saving blood transfusion on religious grounds. Fiona must decide if the doctors can go ahead and administer treatment against the wishes of the boy and his parents. Of course, we know in Fiona’s mind this is a cut and dry case, but for added drama the film has her pay a bedside visit to Adam, whose knowledge of Yeats and guitar-picking skills convince her that the precocious lad has a lot to live for. We’re forced then to wonder if Adam was a dullard who didn’t share Fiona’s artistic interests (she’s something of a piano virtuoso in her downtime), would she have been happy to let him shuffle off this mortal coil?

REVIEW: "The Children Act"

Of course, Fiona orders the doctors to treat the teenager and moves on to her next case. Weeks later however, she is surprised to receive a text message from Adam. After asking how he got her number, the boy simply replies “It wasn’t hard,” as though any teenager can get their hands on the private cellphone number of a High Court judge! When Fiona refuses to engage Adam in a texting session, he turns up in person, and becomes something of a stalker. But with her marriage to college lecturer Jack (Stanley Tucci, who has become so jacked I mistook him for Vin Diesel when he was introduced with a shot of the back of his bald head) rapidly disintegrating, Fiona appears to welcome Adam’s increasingly creepy attention.

The movie doesn’t seem to find Adam as creepy as the audience will. We’re asked to view him with sympathy, but Whitehead plays him with a mad-eyed intensity that suggests he’s on the verge of committing an act of violence if he doesn’t get his way. Fiona is so poorly sketched that we can’t get a grasp of what she’s really feeling about this odd scenario, and Thompson looks rudderless in the role.



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The most egregious problem with The Children Act is that it’s clearly the product of a middle class liberal atheist who has a clear position on the film’s central issue and isn’t willing to indulge the other side. When Fiona first meets Adam, she asks him why he is willing to risk his life for his beliefs. The wishy washy explanation he gives her is simply confirmation bias on behalf of the target audience of liberal atheists who view Jehovah’s Witnesses as loons. Ask an actual Jehovah’s Witness why they would refuse someone else’s blood and they’ll tell you that for them it would constitute an almost rape-like violation, one they would struggle to live with afterwards. Much as religious people might rankle liberals, they’re not going anywhere anytime soon, and portraying them as ignorant rubes doesn’t help anyone in this increasingly divided era.

Films like The Children Act are as single-minded in their liberal atheist viewpoint as those conservative Christian movies that usually star washed up former TV stars like Kevin Sorbo or Melissa Joan Hart. For a more nuanced take on the subject of Jehovah’s Witnesses and their controversial beliefs regarding blood transfusions, I recommend checking out the recently released British drama Apostasy instead.

The Children Act

2 stars out of 5

Directed by: Richard Eyre. Starring: Emma Thompson, Fionn Whitehead, Stanley Tucci







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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Live in Concert At NJPAC
(NEWARK, NJ) -- New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) presents Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Live in Concert. Don’t miss the fourth installment of Harry Potter in Concert when NJPAC hosts the full-length film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, projected in high-definition on a giant screen, with Oscar-nominated composer Patrick Doyle’s masterful score performed live by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, October 27, 2018 at 2:00pm & 7:30pm. 
Hopewell Theater To Celebrate Halloween With Fright Fest Week of Horror Films
(HOPEWELL, NJ) -- For an entire week, Hopewell Theater will celebrate Halloween with, Fright Fest, a mini fest of classic Halloween horror films from October 25 - 31, 2018. The slate of films are icons of horror cinema, and will be displayed in all their gory glory on the big screen. 
​​​​​​​The Newton Theatre Presents a Silent Film Halloween With A Live Orchestra
(NEWTON, NJ) -- The Newton Theatre presents a trio of ghostly silent films paired with the original historic orchestral scores on Saturday, October 27 at 3:00pm. Travel back to the early 1900s to cheer and hiss with Buster Keaton in The Haunted House (1921), Laurel and Hardy in Habeus Corpus (1928), and Charlie Chaplin in One A.M. (1916). Between the films, enjoy the rollicking rhythms of the early 20th century as played by The Peacherine Ragtime Orchestra, featuring favorites by Scott Joplin, Irving Berlin, and more! Fun for the whole family!
A Look At New Jersey Film Festival's Fall 2018 Lineup
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The 36th Bi-annual New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 will take place at Rutgers University in New Brunswick from September 14 - October 26.  The festival showcases new international films, American independent features, animation, experimental and short subjects, and cutting-edge documentaries through over 30 film screenings. The Festival will run on select Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings. The festival is presented by Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, in association with the Rutgers University Program In Cinema Studies.
Count Basie Center For The Arts Hosts A Conversation With John Cusack & Screening of "Say Anything"
(RED BANK, NJ) -- The Count Basie Center For The Arts hosts a conversation with John Cusack following a screening of the eighties classic Say Anything. NOTE: Due to a scheduling conflict, John Cusack Live has been rescheduled to Sunday, October 21 at 7:00pm. All tickets will be honored on October 21.


Michael Gallagher’s terrific comedy Funny Story Premiere’s at the Fall 2018 New Jersey Film Festival this Friday, September 14!
Michael Gallagher’s terrific feature Funny Story Premiere’s at the Fall 2018 New Jersey Film Festival this Friday, September 14!
The Luring: Fear & Neurosis In Vermont
“As a kid, I was always drawn to the darkness,” said filmmaker Christopher Wells.  “I’d think, ‘Why can’t monsters protect me? If I’m friends with the monsters then I don’t have anything to fear.’”
REVIEW: "Searching"
A few weeks ago the body of a 14-year-old schoolgirl was discovered around the corner from where I’m sitting writing this review. Within hours of the tragic discovery, two 13-year-old boys had been arrested. The police had their work simplified by a series of damning posts across social media which pointed to the guilt of the boys in question. Increasingly, when young people go missing or have their lives taken from them, police investigations are now focused more on trawling through the victim’s internet history in search of clues rather than the pavement pounding of old.
REVIEW: "The Children Act"
Earlier this year saw the release of On Chesil Beach, an adaptation of an Ian McEwan novel centered around a wealthy musician who can’t bring herself to have sex with her husband. Now we get The Children Act, an adaptation of an Ian McEwan novel centred around a wealthy musician who can’t bring herself to have sex with her husband. Both are scripted by the novelist himself, and both suggest McEwan should stick to the literary world.
New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 Preview
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 runs from September 14 to October 26 on the Rutgers University Campus in New Brunswick, NJ. Showcasing new international films, American independent features, animation, experimental and short subjects, and cutting-edge documentaries, the New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 will feature over 30 film screenings.  The Festival runs on select Thursday, Friday and Sunday evenings. For the complete schedule visit www.NJFilmFest.com. Here is a look at the screenings for September.

From Our Magazine

The Luring: Fear & Neurosis In Vermont

The Luring: Fear & Neurosis In Vermont

“As a kid, I was always drawn to the darkness,” said filmmaker Christopher Wells.  “I’d think, ‘Why can’t monsters protect me? If I’m friends with the monsters then I don’t have anything to fear.’”


REVIEW: "Searching"

REVIEW: "Searching"

A few weeks ago the body of a 14-year-old schoolgirl was discovered around the corner from where I’m sitting writing this review. Within hours of the tragic discovery, two 13-year-old boys had been arrested. The police had their work simplified by a series of damning posts across social media which pointed to the guilt of the boys in question. Increasingly, when young people go missing or have their lives taken from them, police investigations are now focused more on trawling through the victim’s internet history in search of clues rather than the pavement pounding of old.


REVIEW: "The Children Act"

REVIEW: "The Children Act"

Earlier this year saw the release of On Chesil Beach, an adaptation of an Ian McEwan novel centered around a wealthy musician who can’t bring herself to have sex with her husband. Now we get The Children Act, an adaptation of an Ian McEwan novel centred around a wealthy musician who can’t bring herself to have sex with her husband. Both are scripted by the novelist himself, and both suggest McEwan should stick to the literary world.


REVIEW: "Skyscraper"

REVIEW: "Skyscraper"

Over the last half century, the concept of blockbuster spectacle has flipped on its head. In the 1960s, big budget spectacle meant Steve McQueen jumping over a barbed wire fence on a motorcycle without the aid of a stunt double, or Julie Andrews screaming her lungs out on a Swiss mountainside. Science fiction was relegated to Saturday morning screenings of b-movies, which parents would use to relieve themselves of their tykes while they went shopping. George Lucas  changed all that a decade later, and now sci-fi and fantasy dominates the multiplex, while the only movies featuring practical stunts are those low budget straight to VOD action movies designed to showcase the athleticism of former MMA fighters.








Event calendar
Tuesday, Sep 25, 2018


MUSIC

Cafe Tacvba with special guest Ruen Brothers – Niu Gueis Tour 2018 @ Prudential Hall @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark - 8:00pm

Seuls en Scene French Theater Festival - "Gonzo Conference" @ Donald G. Drapkin Studio at Lewis Arts complex, Princeton - 8:00pm

Joan Baez @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Record Club: Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon @ Pollak Theatre @ Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 7:30pm


KIDS

West End Festival of the Arts- Children's Storytelling @ West End Arts Center, Long Branch - 4:00pm

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