The Children Act Parent Guide
A dazzling performance by Emma Thompson as a judge grappling with life and death issues for a terminally ill teenager.
Parent Movie Review
“The soul, the life is in the blood. And it’s not ours. It’s God’s.” So says the clergyman (Charlie Richards) at the Kingdom Hall attended by Kevin and Naomi Henry (played by Ben Chaplin and Eileen Walsh). This is not just a theoretical expression of the theology of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but a life and death moral issue for their seventeen-year-old son, Adam (Fionn Whitehead). Adam has leukemia and without a blood transfusion he will die.
Horrified by what they see as a needless death, Adam’s doctors go to court under the provisions of The Children Act to overrule his and his parents’ refusal to undergo lifesaving medical treatment. The matter comes before Madame Justice Fiona Maye (Emma Thompson) of Great Britain’s High Court. The judge is forced to grapple with the complex issues at the heart of this film: Can the state force a child to undergo medical procedures against his will? How can one determine if a teenager is capable of making life and death decisions? Does the state’s responsibility to the welfare of a child allow it to overrule the parents’ sincerely held religious convictions? Does changing the direction of someone’s life impose any duties upon you?
The Children Act does a fine job of raising these questions and an even better job of showing the burden that resolving them places on the judge. There is a moral weight that comes with judging one’s fellow citizens; with making decisions about their liberty, life, and death. Emma Thompson delivers a dazzlingly understated performance as Fiona Maye, wordlessly conveying her mental strain and emotional exhaustion as she struggles to balance her legal workload and professional boundaries with her innate compassion and emotional isolation.
Parents considering The Children Act for family viewing will want to be aware that content issues include regular moderate alcohol consumption and infrequent profanities with the use of a sexual expletive. The main issues relate to the film’s sexual content. There is no sexual activity or nudity in the movie but there are two scenes which might cause concern. First, Fiona’s husband, Jack (Stanley Tucci) has finally tired of playing second fiddle to her legal career. He announces that although he still loves Fiona, he wishes to have an affair, which he then proceeds to do. Fiona threatens divorce but the two eventually reconcile. Second, Adam develops very confused feelings towards Fiona – admiration, respect, affection – and he engages in stalking behavior. He follows her to Newcastle, where he kisses her. This is a moment with a very creepy feel.
Due to its complex subject matter, The Children Act will not interest children and most younger teens. It is a movie that will appeal to mature adolescents who enjoy debating ethical and philosophical issues. Parents may well find that engaging their teens on these issues can be a rewarding way to understand their developing moral standards.Directed by Richard Eyre. Starring Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci, Fionn Whitehead. Running time: 106 minutes. Theatrical release September 14, 2018. Updated September 20, 2018
The Children Act
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Children Act rated R? The Children Act is rated R by the MPAA for a sexual reference
Violence: None noted.
Sexual Content: A man tells his wife he wants to have an affair. He talks about his dissatisfaction with their sexual relationship. No explicit language is used. The man has an affair, which is not shown. A woman uses a sexual expletive. A young man kisses an older woman unexpectedly.
Profanity: A character uses terms of deity and terms of Christian deity. There are infrequent mild expletives, one scatological curse word, and one sexual expletive used in a sexual context.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Main characters routinely drink alcohol when they come home from work. Alcohol is drunk in social situations. No one gets drunk.
Page last updated September 20, 2018
The Children Act Parents' Guide
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that God has forbidden blood transfusions. With that in mind, do you think Adam’s parents made the right choice to refuse the transfusion, knowing that he would die? Should the government have the right to overrule the parents when the patient involved is a child? What if the patient is a teenager? At what age do you think someone is capable of providing informed consent to a medical procedure?