AFTER doing the rounds at Toronto, Venice and other prestigious film festivals (raking in a series of awards and glowing reviews), Philomena arrived at Stratford Picturehouse on Sunday morning for a preview screening prior to its release next week.
Based on true events, the movie tells the story of Philomena Lee, who was sent to a convent as a young teenager when she became pregnant outside of marriage.
Forced to work gruelling long hours in the laundry room by Catholic nuns, the son she gave birth to was soon taken away from her and adopted into a wealthy family.
Fifty years later, Philomena (Judi Dench) and her family recruit the help of disgraced ex-BBC reporter Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) to tell her story and find her lost son - a search that takes them from Ireland to America and back again.
From start to finish Philomena is a truly compelling film, which not only boasts a great cast – beady-eyed Game of Thrones fans will spot Michelle Fairley as a brilliantly brisk journalist – it also raises pertinent questions about religion, the British press and, rather unexpectedly, the American Republican party’s attitude towards homosexuality.
With rumours of a potential BAFTA nomination already running rife, Judi Dench’s performance is set apart from the rest, straying away from the stern, stiff upper-lip style characters she has tended to play in recent years.
Philomena has a troubled past and wears her emotions close to the surface, but she is also a charmingly feisty individual, whose sheer delight at a trailer for Big Momma’s House was the source of great audience amusement at the screening.
However, while Dench boldly steps outside her comfort zone, Coogan sticks firmly within the boundaries of his. Deadpan, cynical, sarcastic. . .essentially, this is Steve Coogan playing Steve Coogan, and his performance lacks the overall depth and emotional conviction that the story demands of his character.
That said, given his active support for the ‘Hacked Off’ campaign against Britain’s press, it is interesting to see Coogan actually playing the role of a journalist, while his talents as the movie’s co-writer did not go unnoticed.
The film’s well-crafted script formed one of its more successful elements, with the humorous dialogue between Sixsmith and Philomena allowing Dench an opportunity to exercise her gift for comic timing (though being mindful not to let humour overshadow the seriousness of events).
All in all, Philomena is a heartfelt comedy drama with a bittersweet conclusion. Despite some clumsy narration near the beginning, the film is home to some wonderful writing, great performances and, like Philomena’s revelations about her romance novels, each twist and turn will leave you thinking “well, I never saw that one coming”.
Philomena is on general release in UK cinemas from 1st November.
He has even chosen to set up his office well away from any kind of police building—for the time being in a county-...
Now that a scheme to develop up to 800 homes on the site has been given official government backing, the proposals are e...
STRATFORD-on-Avon District is an attractive place to live and its population has grown rapidly over recent decades. &nb...