Film review: The Children Act (Director: Richard Eyre)
By Sascha Krieger
In Ian McEwen’s 2014 novel The Children Act, a venerable judge faces a difficult case: a 17-year-old boy suffering from leukemia need blood transfusions in order to survive. He and his parents, however, are Jehova’s Witnesses and their faith forbids this procedure. The judge decides that the minor’s welfare is of the utmost importance and allows the hospital to conduct the transfusions against the patient’s will. Case closed. Or not: because the decision has effects on the boy, later the young man, and ultimately the judge, too. Her refusal to accept them has catastrophic consequences. The book deals with the clash of morals and law, the murkiness of the former and the supposed clarity of the latter, in an earnest way that however, tends to use the thick brush when it really matters. The conflict becomes a little too dramatic, the childlessness of the protagonist too pronounced, the parallel storylines of the court case and its aftermath on the one hand and a marriage in crisis on the other, feel a little to construed. At times, the novel feels more like a mixture of legal case study and tear-jerking newspaper story. Not a failure but a little to bloodless (!) to rank among McEwen’s best.