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Posts Tagged ‘Ian McEwan’

Emma Thompson

“THE CHILDREN ACT”  My rating:C+

105 minutes | MPAA rating: R 

“The Children Act” is part probing characters study, part  melodrama.

The first part works better than the second.

Fiona Maye (Emma Thompson) is a family court judge who gets all the tough cases. As Richard Eyre’s film begins she is deciding whether conjoined twins should be surgically separated…even if it means one of them will die (they have only one heart).

Fiona deals with her emotionally taxing work by building an aura of professional detachment.  Unfortunately, that detachment has spread to her private life.

One day her husband Jack (Stanley Tucci) announces that he’s thinking about having an affair.  He points out that he and Fiona haven’t had sex in almost a year — she just isn’t interested.  Jack isn’t willing to announce an official end to his sex life.

Fiona blows up and throws him out of the house. All this domestic turmoil comes as she  faces a news-generating trial over a teenaged Jehovah’s Witness whose leukemia cannot be treated until he receives a blood transfusion.

The kid’s doctors are suing to be allowed to perform the transfusion.  The boy’s parents (Ben Chaplin, Eileen Walsh) maintain that this violates their religious beliefs; if their son dies, then it’s God’s will.

All this pressure is making Fiona a snappish wreck; she makes life miserable for her  dutiful law clerk (Jason Watkins).

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Saoirse Ronan, Billy Howe

“ON CHESIL BEACH” My rating: C+ 

110 minutes | MPAA rating: R

No film with Saoirse Ronan can be easily dismissed. Nonetheless, many will find “On Chesil Beach” a long haul.

Directed by Dominic Cooke and adapted by Ian McEwan from his 2007 novel, this is a story of lost love.  More specifically, it’s about two young people utterly unprepared for the intimacies of married life who are driven apart by sexual dysfunction.

That may sound intriguing…and on the printed page it was.  The problem is that McEwan’s novel is a deep psychological study of two individuals, and deep psychology is not one of the things the movies do particularly well.

We can see the outside, but we’re not privy to what’s happening on the inside. And despite McEwan’s use of extensive flashbacks to depict the young lovers’ courtship and backgrounds, the whole enterprise feels like it’s unfolding at an emotional arm’s length.

Florence (Ronan) and Edward (Billy Howle) check into a seaside hotel for their honeymoon. They’re nervous…this is the big night, after all.  The time is the early ’60s and these two virgins are both eager and terrified.

In a series of flashbacks we see how they met and fell in love.

Edward is working class, a bit impetuous and keyed into the burgeoning pop culture of the day. His family history is far from storybook; his mother (Anne-Marie Duff) suffered a head injury when struck by a train and now devotes herself to making art in the nude.

Florence’s background is a pure 180 from Edward’s. She comes from the upper crust, plays violin in a string quartet, and married Edward despite the disdain of her snooty/pompous parents (Emily Watson, Samuel West).

He thinks Chuck Berry is awesome.  She thinks Chuck Berry is “quite, well, merry.” (That early exchange, initially amusing, carries grim portents for the couple’s compatibility.)

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