The Child in Time

The Child in Time


Benedict Cumberbatch is Stephen, a children’s author, whose life disintegrates when his four-year-old daughter Kate vanishes during a trip to the supermarket.

Stephen’s relationship with his wife Julie (Kelly Macdonald) splinters then falls apart completely in a welter of guilt and recrimination over the child they never find. This one-off adaptation, executive produced by Cumberbatch, is a considerable simplification of Ian McEwan’s 1987 novel, yet it still might strike some viewers as baffling, or even just a bit odd.

There are strange, almost supernatural, undercurrents based around grief and lost childhoods, and a curious story strand involving the regression of Stephen’s best friend into a Just William, wood-dwelling man-child.

But the two leads are heartbreaking as the bereft parents. When Stephen first discovers that Kate is missing his horrible, sick panic is unbearable. As is the couple’s poking and prodding of each other’s wounds as they try to articulate what can never be said.


The life of Stephen Lewis, a successful children's author, falls into tatters when his only child - four-year-old Kate - disappears in a supermarket. Torn apart by the scale of their loss, Stephen and his wife Julie end up going their separate ways, and three years later, a distraught Stephen still finds himself conducting daily, futile seaches for his missing daughter, haunted by the horrifying moment that ruined his small family unit. As both Stephen and Julie struggle independently to deal with their all-consuming grief, the passage of time brings a promise of hope for the future. Drama, based on Ian McEwan's Whitbread Prize-winning novel of the same name, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kelly Macdonald.

Cast & Crew

Stephen Benedict Cumberbatch
Julie Kelly Macdonald
Charles Stephen Campbell Moore
Thelma Saskia Reeves
Policewoman Andrea Hall
Male neighbour Jim Creighton
Kate Beatrice White
Shop assistant Rosa-Marie Lewis
Lydia Webb Franc Ashman
Rachel Murray Anna Madeley
Home Secretary John Hopkins
Prime Minister Elliot Levey
Joanna Buckley Lucy Liemann
Stephen's young mother Natasha Brown
Greg Ellis Laurence Spellman
Stephen's father Richard Durden
Stephen's mother Geraldine Alexander
Estate agent Gerard Monaco
Taxi driver Tony Walker
Ruth Lyle Chase Collard
Mrs Forrester Gehane Strehler
Mrs Matterson Karen Bryson
Nurse Doreene Blackstock
Director Julian Farino
Dramatised By Stephen Butchard
Producer Grainne Marmion
Writer Ian McEwan
see more