Featured Post

The Time in Child: My take on the movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch & Kelly MacDonald #book2movie [review]

 Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen pushing the adorable Beatrice White as Kate 

I can’t imagine what I would have made of The Child in Time had I not read the book. I saw several tweets online, basically saying, what am I watching? What the hell is going on? I get it. Television viewers were as mystified as I was by the book. Here’s my take on what Christopher Hitchens called Ian McEwan’s masterpiece.

Having read the book though, I was able to follow the story quite easily. Especially since the screenwriter—Stephen Butchard—cleaned up some of the book’s confusing elements, deleting all the references to a future dystopian world where beggars are licensed and given badges. He also streamlined McEwan’s references to the governmental intrusion and desire to rollback modern education as we know it. (Maybe not so far in the future after all?) 

Kelly Macdonald and Benedict Cumberbatch are grief-stricken parents in The Child in Time

What I got from my post-reading viewing was that The Child in Time is yes, about the grieving of Stephen (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Julie (Kelly MacDonald) for their child Kate who is snatched at age four but not only for the missing child. In a story that travels back and forth in time, revisiting that dreadful day, we see the couple is initially torn apart by their different responses to her disappearance; Stephen continually seeking Kate out, Julie retreating, depressed. Over time, the healing process continues—time heals all wounds—even the grief that comes with the loss of a child and everything one holds close and dear in a harsh and changing world

Buttressing this idea, we also see Stephen’s friend Charles has lost his own childhood—in a subplot that seems superfluous—so much so that he desires only to return to it, to that time. Stephen’s mother might have lost her child as well, had she had the abortion we learn about in the book—but not in the film. 

As the film ends, Stephen and Julie, with the passage of time, find themselves able to reunite, hopeful and joyous again at the birth of a new child and I found myself deeply moved. Time has helped them return to each other, not without little Kate, their child in the previous time, but with her, always with her, with her memory always in their hearts, but ready again for a new child in this time of their lives. 

I’m not sure I would have understood the inclusion of Charle’s storyline, his retreat to the woods and the elements of his descent into a kind of madness, or the mystery of Stephen’s vision of his parents, had I not read the book. Still, because I did read the book, I found watching Benedict Cumberbatch and Kelly MacDonald, their chemistry solid, their emotions high and believable, satisfying. I know that’s a contradiction because I didn’t recommend the book but Butchard’s elimination of at least some of the bewildering parts of the book was helpful, while some of the novel served as an instructional background to the viewing. But mostly my enjoyment can be chalked up to the absolute power of great acting. With Cumberbatch, that’s a given. Watching him, always a pleasure.

You can watch the film On Demand and with your PBS passport for a limited time.