The Children Act – Reviews

I’m due to go see The Children Act tonight. It was a novel I enjoyed immensely when it came out. I’ve seen a couple of lawyers’ reviews of it already, and as I probably won’t have time immediately to write my own review I thought I would gather them here.

Barbara Rich (@barbararich_law) has written one on Medium (note her spoiler alert) here.

Rehna has written one on It’s a Lawyer’s Life here (@itsalawyerslife).

Sarah Langford’s review for Legal Cheek can be found here (@wigsandwords).

Here also is a review by Paul Magrath on the book itself.


Some days later….

Well, my non-lawyer girl friends and I enjoyed The Children Act. I’m not going to fully review it as I feel as if I would be repeating much of what is said in the reviews above, but I will offer one or two personal thoughts.

I found the film really depressing. Because it is (as it was when I read the book) a reminder of what we put our partners (and our children if we have them) through by our dedication to a career in family law. It may be at its most acute at the High Court Bench, but the scenes where Fiona Maye’s husband tries and fails to get her attention as she is face down in a lever arch file and completely absorbed in her case will be difficult for many of us at the bar to watch (male and female, childless or not). The sadness with which he turns away, remarking on how many weekends have been lost to her deadlines is a sadness which is hard to be confronted with on a big screen, because many of us probably know deep down we leave our loved ones feeling exactly this way far too often.

That said, one thing I had forgotten from the book was just how irritating I found Maye’s long suffering but oh-so-entitled husband, who announces he is off for an affair and gives her an ultimatum without warning as she embarks on a life or death case that he must know places her under intolerable pressure. His insistence that her chronic emotional unavailability entitles him to be unfaithful and yet still to expect her to welcome him back, his inability to comprehend why she might have consulted a lawyer about divorce in response to his actions – make his character really unattractive. And worst of all, that at the point of their reconciliation he has to be reminded about the Jehovah’s witness case that the film is all about, because he has forgotten its facts and its significance.

Perhaps I am cross because it is hard to think about the idea of our long suffering other halves feeling that they have been left in the shadows for so long that they have to do something drastic to get things back on track. But perhaps it is also because the character played by Stanley Tucci is also just a little bit of an arse in the way he goes about solving the problem in their relationship (incase you are reading, darling, don’t try this at home).

The irony is that, in order to receive this message about the importance of appreciating the families who support and endure us as we focus our best energies on other people’s families, I was out all evening and the kids and hubby were all fast asleep when I got home.

Keep working at that home life balance people.


A post script :

The Times ‘Brief’ published a snarky piece today entitled ‘Emma Thompson Takes a Wigging‘ which suggests that legal twitter is all atwitter with complaints about inappropriate wigs. I can’t say I’ve seen anyone who thinks this quite marginal artistic license is something to die in a ditch for, and such legal continuity errors as there were would be visible only to a family lawyer. None of them would have detracted I think from the overall understanding of process given to a lay viewer – it was by far the most accurate and true representation I’ve seen of family justice, so I’m not complaining. If you want to know what I thought was (slightly) inaccurate it was the absence of a representative for the child (which I didn’t spot myself till someone pointed it out) and the barracking cross examination of the father which was spectacularly unilluminating and undignified. But who knows, perhaps in 1993 when the real case that the story is based on was heard, this was typical (although in the film it is set in 2016 so it jars somewhat with modern practice).

Post script to the post script : You can also read Max Hardy’s review of The Children Act here, which exposes the distinct possibility that I am projecting my own guilt on Stanley Tucci…. Damn you Max!

More reviews to read :

Joshua Rozenberg’s review in the Gazette is here (@joshuarozenberg). I did not spot that the court was a Pinewood set, but it does explain that it was far less dingy than I remember ever seeing the Queen’s Building!!

Keep Calm Talk Law review the film here (@keepcalmtalklaw). The point about the parallels between the judiciary and Jehovah’s Witnesses had not occurred to me but is striking now I’ve seen it.

4 thoughts on “The Children Act – Reviews

  1. I agree that his actions are very unattractive but they are forewarned and it seemed to me the point was he was telling her how unhappy he was and she was not listening. He also rattles off a litany of other crucial cases for her which typifies the no case has ever been more important than the one I’m doing right now that afflicts so many of us. What I always love about legal drama is so many barristers are frustrated actors, it’s less often realised how many actors are frustrated barristers.

  2. […] do, and find out more about what makes them tick. You can’t just rely on TV documentaries, or feature films based on novels by Ian McEwan, however much they may […]

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