Philomena (2013) – Film Review

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Stephen Frears’ recent success in classical British cinema is only strengthened by the charming tale of “Philomena”. From the director’s assured insight in 2006 with “The Queen”, it is in this picture we see Frears begin inject individuality and confidence, taking him to the next level.

It is inspired by the true story of fallen news presenter Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), whose vain attempts to revitalise his career through journalism lead him to the emotionally fraught Philomena (Judi Dench). After initially rejecting the thought of pursuing a “human interest story” for “weak minded, vulnerable, ignorant people”, he abandons his uninspiring Russian history book and uncovers the account of an Irish convent’s damning treatment of sexual sins and resultant pregnancies. The two form an unlikely relationship exploring several countries in order to track down her child. Speaking as someone who does not typically enjoy Dame Judi, in this role I feel that her endless plaudits are at last just. Reminiscent of Imelda Staunton as “Vera Drake”, her delightful innocence is consistently humorous and her Irish accent is faultless. From misinterpreting Martin’s dry wit to ruining novels by spoiling the ending, she is a true sweetheart.

Coogan’s BAFTA winning and Academy Award nominated script is a heartfelt and touching tale, proving his cinematic diversity after the hilarious “Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa”. Addressing tough subject matter such as religion and aids, it flits assertively between the light and the dark. The inclusion of reoccurring flashbacks depicting both her youth and her son’s life are truly emotive. Martin’s mixed relationship with Philomena generates fantastic on screen chemistry that truly brings out his ‘funny bones’. They are accompanied by a strong supporting cast in “Game of Thrones” star Michelle Fairley, Sophie Kennedy Clark as the young Philomena and regular Coogan collaborator Anna Maxwell Martin.

The trailers underplay the beauty of this production and despite being relative underdogs in this year’s Oscar race, together Dame Judi Dench (Best Actress), Steve Coogan (Best Adapted Screenplay) and the film itself (Best Picture), would by no means be undeserved winners.

IMDB Rating: 7.8/10

My Rating: 8/10

Max Hilton

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