Previously filmed in 1929 by Paramount as The Marriage Playground, Edith Wharton’s 1928 novel The Children comes to the screen as a somewhat dated enterprise. Story of a middle-aged man’s infatuation for a teenage girl unfolds at a snail’s pace.
Ben Kingsley is Martin Boyne, a middle-aged engineer returning to Europe after years in Brazil. He hopes to marry Rose Sellars (Kim Novak, looking ageless), his lifelong love recently widowed and living in an Alpine village. On the voyage home, he meets a group of seven children, the oldest of which is the budding Judith (Siri Neal).
Martin lingers on in Venice with the children, who seem to fascinate him, but eventually heads for the hills and Rose. The children soon follow. The rest of the film despicts Martin’s indecision and his gradual emotional shift away from the demanding Rose to the guileless, appealing Judith, who appears to encourage him.
Kingsley gives one of his most affecting performances as the confused protagonist, and young Siri Neal is a find as the child-woman.