Posted by Stephen Farber, 9.9.17: “In Ian McEwan‘s The Children Act (A24, sometime this fall), Emma Thompson plays a High Court judge who specializes in family law cases. And she delivers what has to be one of the most nuanced and moving performances of her entire career. The film is also notable for showcasing another superb performance, by up-and-coming actor Fionn Whitehead (Dunkirk). But his is essentially a strong supporting role, whereas Thompson appears in virtually every scene.

“Adam Henry (Whitehead) is suffering from leukemia. Doctors believe that a blood transfusion will save his life, but Adam and his parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and their religion prohibits the mixing of blood. Since Adam is only 17, he is not deemed an adult, so he cannot decide for himself what he wants to do, though he claims to share his parents’ religious beliefs. Fiona hears the opinions of doctors as well as Adam’s parents, but then she makes the unconventional decision to visit Adam in the hospital, where she discovers an extraordinarily intelligent boy who happens to share her own love of music.

“Weighing the medical and religious issues, she ultimately decides to save Adam’s life by ordering the transfusion.

“That is far from the end of the story, however. After his release from the hospital, Adam seeks out Fiona, eager to become much closer to the woman who saved his life. Needless to say, this provokes turmoil for both of them. Fiona has chosen not to have children, so the relationship with Adam awakens some deeply buried regrets about her own life choices.”