Title – Philomena (2013)
Director – Stephen Frears (The Queen)
Cast – Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Mare Winningham
Plot – Disgraced journalist Martin Sixsmith (Coogan) takes on a “human interest” story that involves helping kindly old Irish woman Philomena (Dench) track down her long lost son after he was taken from her and adopted out by the Catholic Church after she had the child out of wedlock. Based on a true story.
“The Catholic Church should go to confession, not you!”
Review by Eddie on 22/07/2014
There’s no real doubt about the fact that Philomena is a hugely pleasant and enjoyable movie and features one of the great Judi Dench’s best on screen performances but there is also an overarching feeling that the film could of packed more emotional wallop, for in the end the film remains very watchable but not emotionally involving the way in which it’s potent story harbors within.
The films main drawbacks stem from some quite pedestrian like direction from old hand Stephen Frears behind the camera. Frears has found success throughout his career, in particular with his last true life tale The Queen, but here injects not a huge amount of imagination into a tale that could of involved through not only the present but with flashbacks and well-constructed present scenes. Another element of the film that could of potentially been improved upon is the performance of Steve Coogan, who far too often in front of camera seems to be playing a slightly different version from his real life self, not an actual embodied performance and his turn as disgraced former journalist Martin Sixsmith is again proof that his range is arguably fairly limited. While the film here fails in these mentioned areas it also excels in two very important ones that in its script and the portrayal of Philomena by Dench.
While Coogan miscalculated his appearance in the film he absolutely nailed the script of Philomena with his writing partner Jeff Pope. There are many touching and at times very witty moments in the film and banter between Coogan and Dench is frequently smile on the face joyous. The rich script by Coogan and Pope is fantastically played by Dench who instils Philomena with an air of grace, humour and love and in any other year there is a high chance that a well-deserved Oscar would of gone her way. In many ways Dench is the reason to watch the film and it is well and truly hers, overshadowing even the true life story at the centre of this tale.
Philomena is a highly inoffensive drama that highlights an oft hidden and extremely interesting time in the Catholic Churches’ history. With more flair behind camera, a stronger supporting turn to go along with Dench’s role for the ages and with more emotional investment for the audience to grab onto, Philomena would have been a downright classic but as it stands it lives solely off an acting great at the top of her game.
3 paperback romance novels out of 5