The Children Act just landed square on our radar, with the news that the leading roles have been filled by Academy Award winner Emma Thompson, and Academy Award nominee Stanley Tucci. The legendary pair will star in the adaptation of 2014 Ian McEwan novel of the same name, which the author himself will write for the screen.
With Richard Eyre (Notes On A Scandal) in the director’s chair, The Children Act will centre on High Court Judge Fiona Maye (Emma Thompson) who is faced with having to rule in the case of a teenager (Fionn Whitehead) refusing a life-saving blood transfusion on religious grounds. At the same time, her own marriage is beginning to crumble around her, as she deals with her husband’s stated intention to embark on an affair. Stanley Tucci will play the husband to Thompson’s High Court Judge. His character is an American professor, struggling with the combination of careers in the marriage, while both husband and wife continue to circle back to their decision to remain childless.
Clearly, the story encompasses a great many issues – from religion and medical advances, to the age of consent, to infidelity and marital discord. There are few performers working today that could be relied upon to approach this material with the required nuance and lightness of touch – but Emma Thompson and Stanley Tucci are certainly in the top range of that very short list. The film will also be only the third onscreen appearance for Fionn Whitehead, who makes his big screen debut in 2017, with Dunkirk.
The most significant reason to be excited about The Children Act, however, is that it will deliver precisely the kind of role that allows Emma Thompson to shine. Rather than playing a woman operating in deference to others, here she will be a legal mind at the top of her distinguished profession, tasked with a decision that would have national and historical ramifications – while dealing with the deterioration of her marriage. This will be fascinating stuff, and we’ll be watching closely as it is about to begin principal photography in London.