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Overall Rating
4.17

Awesome: 16.67%
Worth A Look83.33%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 6 user ratings


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Philomena
 
by Daniel Kelly

"Alpha Mama"
4 stars

Ten years ago director Stephen Frears was atop the world, churning out a series of successes on both sides of the Atlantic. Recently the film-maker�s output has taken a less inspired turn; with last year�s universally maligned �Lay the Favourite� an apt representative of his current fortune. �Philomena� resuscitates Frears�s slightly, at least allowing him the benefit of an engaging screenplay and a chance to work with an explosive performer like Judi Dench, the director envisioning a well-crafted sob story with lashings of social angst. It�s no masterpiece, but the feature captures a natural storytelling flow, handling rather dramatic shifts in tone confidently. It�ll probably be your grandmother�s new favourite film.

Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) is a disgraced government advisor looking to get back to his journalistic roots, hoping to uncover a scintillating puff-piece to rejuvenate his professional standing. By chance he encounters Philomena (Judi Dench) an elderly Irishwoman with a story, that of her lost son Anthony. In her teens Philomena had pre-marital sex; the result a pregnancy out of wedlock. The Nuns in her convent shipped the child off to a mystery family; leaving Philomena to live her life with no knowledge of Anthony�s whereabouts, desperate to ignite a familial connection. Martin agrees to write an article on Philomena�s tale of woe, saddling up with his subject on a trip that takes them from Ireland to America in pursuit of answers.

The film is based on harrowing events and upholds a respectful tone as a consequence, painting a stoic picture of the titular character. Sixsmith�s 2009 memoir is the chief influence, so �Philomena� has been assembled on the pretence of first person authority, yet there�s something inherently Hollywood-ised about the product - perhaps it�s the saintliness the screenplay bestows upon Philomena or indeed the vibrant bounding between comedy and heighted drama - whatever the case it�s no surprise the tale should have found its way onto screens and more tellingly into an awards race. �Philomena� is a finely tuned piece with an absolutely stonking finish, but aside from some graceful theatrics and the outstanding thespian contribution, it all just feels the right side of ordinary. In a year where it has to do battle with �Gravity� and �Nebraska�, �Philomena� is short on dynamism.

The characterisation is faultless, Coogan and chiefly Dench essaying their parts with regal finesse. The latter is probably the closest thing the picture has to a secret weapon, oscillating through a range of subtly articulated moods, culminating in a brave and challenging stand-off with those responsible for her misery. The juxtaposing worldviews of Philomena and Martin form a fundamental strand of the picture�s DNA, helping to structure a jovial chemistry and encourage the exploration of deeper themes. �Philomena� has religion and integrity at its heart, throwing in Martin�s predatory tabloid instincts to further flavour the broth. The movie asks us to appreciate conviction, even if it�s not always in the best interests of everyone, a fascinating stance given the revelations at the movie�s end. It�s not pro-religion or anything of the sort, but the completion of the character arcs and idolisation of Dench�s role lead me to believe it sees true value in having beliefs, not just cynical 21st century intuition.

Frears� cinematography tends to reflect atmosphere brashly (the tragic end is coated in layers of frost) but �Philomena� does have a polished look and tender score courtesy of Alexandre Desplat. This British production brushes the heartstrings during its smartly constructed 98 minutes, occasionally soliciting a tear or tickling out a laugh. Yet, �Philomena� never generates anything beyond moderate goodwill and a pleasurable viewing experience, leaving its formidable leading lady to sporadically make something special of proceedings. [B]

link directly to this review at http://ctfqcd.com/review.php?movie=25535&reviewer=425
originally posted: 12/11/13 10:33:53
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Venice Film Festival For more in the 2013 Venice Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 2013 Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Austin Film Festival For more in the 2013 Austin Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 AFI Film Festival For more in the 2013 AFI Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Middleburg Film Festival For more in the 2013 Middleburg Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Denver Film Festival For more in the 2013 Denver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Palm Springs International Film Festival For more in the 2014 Palm Springs International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/26/15 Robert Tschinkel this role was perfect for Judy Dench, such a moving performance 5 stars
3/04/15 Bents Well done - inspired some healthy discussion afterwards 4 stars
5/01/14 Monday Morning I'm a hard man, not given to sentiment. But this is a wonderful story. 4 stars
2/03/14 PAUL SHORTT AFFECTING DRAMA OF REGRET, LOVE AND FORGIVENESS, WITH A GOOD STAR PERFORMANCE 4 stars
1/08/14 Cynthia Teer Worth the fee to watch this one. 4 stars
1/01/14 Bert Powerful,moving and absoluately entertaining 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  22-Nov-2013 (PG-13)
  DVD: 15-Apr-2014

UK
  01-Dec-2013 (12A)

Australia
  22-Nov-2013
  DVD: 15-Apr-2014



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