The Child in Time: My honest review

Before I begin this blog post, I think it's only fair that I warn you now that there may be some spoilers within this review and that this post will refer to moments within the TV show that needs a trigger warning. This review will not refer in detail to the graphic suicide that occurs within the show but will mention it. If this is something that could possibly be triggering to you, then I suggest that you do not read this review or watch the movie, if you haven't already. 

The Child in Time or How on earth am I supposed to watch this without crying? 

The Child in Time
has been, for me, one of the most anticipated BBC movies of the past couple of years. As an avid fan of Benedict Cumberbatch, I knew that this was a must-see for me. I also have a growing love for Ian McEwan's novels which made me certain that this was the movie for me. Full disclosure, I was about half-way through the book when I watched this. I should have finished it sooner but I just haven't had the time. As I'm writing this, I'm sat on my bed watching The Child in Time with one of my cats sat on my foot, occasionally licking my foot instead of his paw. 

The opening of the movie is a simple slow-motion shot of Stephen (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) leaving a shop with the police behind him. There is a simple but powerful score playing, soft, melancholic notes of the piano which seems to switch almost immediately to the deafening sound of London. It's loud and disorientating. It's almost too much and at once, you understand how Stephen feels, this repeats, the soft score and the sounds of the city moving around him. There is no questioning what has happened in this moment. It's Julie's cry, "where is she now?" which sends us reeling into the present.

The film is a constant merging of the past and present, we're haunted by the events that have transpired and, just as the characters, we must experience how the past and present overlap in every moment with the appearance of Kate and the memories that resurface almost every moment. In these regards, the movie is very artsy and the transitions are almost effortlessly (this is where the merging comes in) and well, they can be darn right confusing if you don't know what to look out for. You have to read between the lines, nothing is ever simple and this movie demonstrates that from the offset, we, like the characters, have to try harder to see what is real and not. This abstract jumping around instead of a linear tale is both beautifully made and emotionally draining, so we can only imagine what it is like for Stephen who slips easily between the past and present.  

"I'm still looking for her, not actively, out of the corner of my eye," Stephen admits, confronting the viewer with how couples that experience this loss are forced to live, within a constant state of limbo - both with and without hope. To hold on, to search for her each day, destroys the relationship between Stephen and Julie but hope, a hope that one day they may find her, is enough to keep her going. 

"A bad thing happened and we've got to live with it. Move on.". 
"Is that possible?"

This movie rests on this tone, the divide between holding onto the past and letting go all at once. Childhood, according to the government is a privilege but it's anything but, the childhood of the movie, is something completely innocent and a right, that is often lost as in the case of Katie and Charles. Katie is physically lost, she is lost within the world which carries on moving despite the tragedy that takes place, and lost within time. In Charles case, he is searching for the child within himself, struggling with himself and his identity he's had his entire adult life. There's a sense that he's trying to "catch up on things [he] missed." His role, as a publisher of children's literature, portrays a sense of the childhood he's attempting to hold onto. This element of time, which is not linear, and being lost within it is what pervades the narrative, as Stephen admits, "she'll still be Kate, she'll still be my little girl."

It's physically hard to watch as Stephen mistakes a young schoolgirl for his daughter and goes to the school to talk to her. I had to blink away the tears here. It's a harrowing realisation that every moment is like this for Stephen, that there is a pain of both recognition and not recognising her. It's a heartbreak that occurs again and again and will never be quenched despite how he may let go. It's the realisation both Julie and Stephen come to, "she has to be the one to find us." The shot is dark, their bodies are a silhouette within the serene, almost still light of the aquarium. It's a stunning shot and reminded me of BBC Sherlock's The Six Thatchers which provided a very different tone. However, the scene itself provides hope. Yes, there is helplessness, the helplessness of their circumstances but a hope that things will somehow fix himself, until then, they must "be here, ready." The end of this scene shows Julie and Stephen, quite literally, in step finally understanding one another, pardon the metaphor, but they are at last on the same page and not on opposite ends of grief.

The movie demonstrates how the innocence of childhood cannot ever be recaptured which we see with Stephen buying Christmas presents for Kate and Charles' suicide. Stephen, unlike Charles, is able to accept that Kate may be lost within time and tells her to "take your time we'll be here." It's obvious that the movie is not about replacing Kate, with the addition of a new baby at the end of the movie, but it about acceptance. We must all accept life's circumstances and how the world will keep spinning no matter what, being lost within the past does nothing to help, only to haunt. The world may be unexpected but it's not always a bad thing. The end of the movie demonstrates a new hope for Stephen and Julie, a hope where Kate is not forgotten but a big sister to a new baby boy. Stephen takes Kate with every day, but instead of haunting them, she is a part of them as she was before.

People took to Twitter to air their thoughts of The Child in Time. 

The only criticism I have is that there were not enough warnings before the movie started and it was irresponsible of the BBC not to warn viewers of the content. There are impressionable people that watch and can be trigger by the events of that transpired within this movie. There was no warning given about the suicide and that is something that cannot be forgiven. Yes, the BBC gave out there usual 'if you were affected' after but there should have been more warnings prior to the movie. That is probably my only criticism of this fantastic, artsy movie. It was incredibly done and the acting by both Benedict and Kelly was truly a masterpiece. 

If you've read this without watching the movie, then I've spoiled it for you but I'm not sorry because you were pre-warned. If you watched this, maybe comment below and let me know what you thought. Also, I'd like to thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to visit my post. 

See you next time. 

Tiffani. x


  1. This film was so beautiful and left me speechless with all the emotion. I am really sensitive person and at times it was a bit too much to cope with, but then again, that is exactly what the film was all about.. I haven't read the book but this inspired me to do so! While watching I honestly cried so much that I didn't pay attention to all the 'confusing' scenes but this morning I woke up with a few questions. Overall, I loved it!

    1. This is such a lovely comment. I agree with you, it's a very sensative issue and I'm glad it's inspired you to read the book.

  2. Absolutely loved this and you've managed to capture my thoughts and feelings about the film perfectly! X


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