Philomena – Review

20 Feb

I didn’t know too much about Philomena before going into it. I read a bare bones summary before watching it, but based on the poster, I was assuming that this was going to be some quirky indie movie with a touch of drama. I was not excited to see this. Then the movie started, and I realized that I couldn’t have been more mistaken. Philomena is a dramatic powerhouse of a movie that completely took me by surprise and has not left my thoughts since I finished watching it.

Philomena_poster

British journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) is now unemployed after losing his job as a Labour government adviser. Finding himself with nothing to work on, he starts planning on writing a book about Russian history. That is until he meets a woman named Philomena (Judi Dench). Philomena lost her son when the convent she was put in gives the baby away without her knowledge, and for 50 years she has not stopped thinking about him and where he is. Sixsmith decides to use this story for a human interest story and helps Philomena with her search. It eventually brings them both to America where the mystery of her son’s life is revealed to be both tragic and wonderful.

If you just look at the poster above the summary, you may get a general sense of how this movie is. Well, that sense would be completely wrong, because just by looking at this poster I thought it was going to be a cute little piece of quirk. But, no. Philomena has this rare ability to rip out your soul and step on it, even though you may still be laughing at something that happened not five minutes before. While I was watching this movie, I kept saying “This is amazing. This movie is really amazing.”

Judi Dench Steve Coogan

Steve Coogan and Judi Dench are part of what really makes this movie work. Their chemistry together is pretty dead on, and I feel that has a lot to do with Coogan’s natural way of acting and Judi Dench’s ability to transform herself completely into the character of Philomena. This being a sort of road trip movie, it’s pretty crucial that the characters are believable, but also show a little bit of tension. Normally, in an odd couple movie like this, one character is totally kooky and the other is the straight and narrow one. In Philomena, they never abuse this cliche, even though it is there. No cliches are ever actually abused, even when it comes to Coogan’s character as a journalist, who would seem to only really want to be involved for his own benefit. I never got the feeling that Sixsmith was trying to use this story primarily for his own gain.

Screenwriters Jeff Pope and Steve Coogan have crafted an excellent screenplay full of witty dialogue and humanity, while Stephen Frears directs it all with ease. While Coogan and Pope did write an excellent screenplay, you can’t forget that this is based off a true story. It’s startling to think that what happens here is even allowed to happen and it really makes you think what goes on behind the closed doors of some organizations amongst other major themes. This movie has a lot to say, and some of it is anything but positive, but Philomena is not a movie that tries to jam an opinion down your throat. It treats the viewers as intelligent human beings who are quite capable of deciding what they think for themselves.

Philomena was the most surprising movie of the year for me. I really had no interest in seeing it, and that just goes to show how wrong my movie radar can be. This is a funny, sad, and strangely hopeful movie based off an incredible true story that will shake you to your very core. It’s an interesting combination of characters and beliefs, and if you have an humanity in you at all you will be moved by this incredible piece of storytelling.

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One Response to “Philomena – Review”

  1. omnivorous cinephile April 1, 2014 at 2:38 am #

    Excellent review. I was like you; I knew the basic story going in, but it only took a few minutes for the movie to captivate me, and by the end it was one of my favorite movies of 2013.

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