Philomena (2013)

Genre: Drama

Director: Stephen Frears

Writers: Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope, Martin Sixsmith

Starring: Steve Coogan, Judi Dench, Sophie Kennedy Clark

Rating: ★★★★½

To my surprise this somewhat under the radar film is moving, sad and quite simply brilliant. Philomena a small British film has only recently been making the headlines and dominating conversations after receiving a handful of nominations for award season including an Oscar nomination for Best Motion Picture and Best Actress. It isn’t any surprise however why these nominations were given to Philomena as for me a mixture of a well-written emotional story and great acting by Coogan and Dench really make this release as enjoyable and entertaining as any other film causing hype at the moment.

Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) is a journalist looking for a distraction after finding himself at a loss when dismissed by the Labour Party leaving his career as a member of the BBC a mere shameful memory. When approach by a young Irish woman Martin is intrigued by the story of her mother, Philomena (Judi Dench) who is on a search for her long lost son who was taken by Nuns when she was an inmate at a strict Catholic convent. Martin agrees to help Philomena with her search and with her story he will write and publish in a magazine; however their journey and her story is more than just a magazine article. On the hunt for Philomena’s lost Anthony they find themselves in America and discovering a shameful corruption and lie within the Catholic convent. However as much as they find out about the fate of Anthony Martin and Philomena find out a lot about each other forming a close friendship which causes even their basic beliefs to be changed.

The story which is based on a true story and adapted from Martin Sixsmith’s book “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee” is not only well-written but emotional containing witty British comedy to tearful moments of sadness. There’s a scene which takes place in a Harvester Restaurant which immediately brings laughs to the British audience, picking up a handful of croutons in her Irish accent Philomena says to Martin “Oh I do like these little bits of toast they have”.  It was only a simple moment and simple joke yet it was so effective and free-flowing and that was the case for the comedy throughout the film. In the complete contrary there are scenes where your heart drops, no matter how Philomena discovers her long lost son Anthony is was destined to be emotional and it truly was and was executed greatly and captured by Judi Dench equally as impressive.

Although at times it was a pleasant story and had moments of heart-warming bonding and comedy it did show the harsh truth and untold stories of what young Catholic women had to obey once upon time. How young-girls were shunned upon and disowned by their parents if they got pregnant is upsetting and more so was the idea that the only options they had were to have their baby die or to have it looked after by the Catholic Church whilst you repaid your debt.  It was a topic was upsetting that was very moving and touching to see but the way that everyone involved with the making and creation of Philomena did an excellent job.

The acting was another strong highlight which complemented the excellent writing, Judi Dench an actress who’s been giving brilliant performances for many decades now and has constantly contributed to British Film shines once more. Her portrayal of Philomena is excellent, the way in which Dench can show frailty, sadness and humour in such a quick mixture is incredible and something which obviously contributed to her deserved Oscar Nomination.  Steve Coogan as Martin Sixsmith is also great, the humour again is a highlight but so is how Coogan deals with the serious scenes and moments. Martin is a character that stands up for Philomena and due to that the audience encourages and sides with him throughout. An honorary mention and one which is probably not as frequent as it should be, but Sophie Kennedy Clark’s performance of a younger Philomena was brilliant. Responsible for the flashback scenes which complemented Philomena’s narration when telling her story Clark’s emotion was a real highlighting aspect.

Philomena is a film that thrives mainly from its acting and strong story, although there was nothing wrong with Frears direction it wasn’t eye-catching enough to be applauded likewise with the film’s score and music. Although elements were lacking you can’t deny that Philomena is a fantastic film which has undoubtedly made a huge impact on all its viewers and has done British Film proud. Entertaining and intriguing from start to finish the experience is easily enjoyable and definitely emotional but more importantly one that is very worth-while.

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10 comments on “Philomena (2013)

  1. I didn’t really like this movie’s one-sided approach too much, but then again, it seems like a stance that only I, and I alone are willing to stay firm on. Good review Liam.

  2. Wonderful review man, I totally adored this film and was pissed that I never saw it last year, so glad Cineworld started showing it again back in January. I thought th story was humourous and heartbreaking and it was quite shocking to see what Philomena and many other girls endured when they were younger, but even more shocking was the actions of the nuns. I loved Judi Dench and Steeve Coogan’s performances, this was definitely a different kind of role for Dench where she was so frail, soft and vulnerable.

    • Thanks a lot for the kind words! I definitely thank the awards season for highlighting this film for me otherwise it would have slipped by with a lame release, the performances and the story was amazing as you said! Glad you enjoyed it and even watched this, many have decided to avoid and skip Philomena.

  3. Interesting take. You seemed a lot more on-board with the film’s sense of humor than I did. I wasn’t too enthralled by much of the dialogue, but the way the film brought in the analysis of religious and cultural issues was well done. It was also fun to see Judi Dench outside a James Bond movie, as I haven’t seen her in any other role before this 😛

    • I thought it was funny but at the same time it didn’t take any emotion from the story, thanks for reading! I agree too, I had never seen Dench act as anyone else apart from M! 🙂

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