Philomena – Film Review
Advance screening courtesy of Pathé, 20th Century Fox and Eclipse Pictures.
A ex-BBC Journalist and disgraced UK Government Press Officer takes on a human interest story in the shape of an elderly Irish woman to help her in the search for the son she was forced to give up for adoption 50 years previously.
Stephen Frears has been entertaining us for quite some time now, the four films that stand out for me are The Snapper, High Fidelity, Dangerous Liaisons, and The Queen. There are many other titles that he directed which might not have been box office hits but are always enjoyable. In Philomena Frears continues to take serious subject and direct it with tenderness and humour (black and otherwise) while not failing to deliver the messages within the story.
The more I write this review the more I see similarities between Stephen Frear’s approach to movie-making and that of Ron Howard. (See my Rush review here). They both treat real life events as a template to deliver polished re-imaginings of what actually occurred and they both do it with style. The performances of the actors are usually top notch (here with Dame Judi Dench and Steve Coogan do not disappoint) and the production crew also step up to the mark.
The film takes place mostly in interiors, which helps to heighten the conflicting characters of Sixsmith (Coogan) and Philomena (Dench), one a liberal-minded, well-educated and frustrated journalist and the other a blunt, nervous, fragile, and forgiving Irish woman in her seventies. Despite an excellent supporting cast, in particular Michelle Fairley (Game of Thrones) and Anna Maxwell martin (TheBletchly Circle), the two leads that dominate most of the screen time. Even though their goal is to find Philomena’s son and for Sixsmith to write his story, it is the development of their own relationship that ends up being more important.
The only time the film slows down is during the flashbacks of young Philomena and her time in the Convent run laundries at the hands of strict Irish Nuns, these scenes seem a bit emotionally detached in contrast to the present day story of the film as Sixsmith and Philomena grate against each other delightfully as they make their way from London to Ireland to the U.S. in search of her lost son.
We are left with a little more understanding of the guilt that this separation involves and we are also given a lesson in the difference between a real life and the hunt for a journalistic angle.
It is warm, funny, charming, and thoughtful.
Philomena opens in Ireland on the 1st November