Thursday, 23 January 2014

Review: Philomena

World of Blackout Film Review

Philomena Poster

Cert: 12A / 98 mins / Dir. Stephen Frears
WoB Rating: 5/7

I'd initially bypassed this upon its release last year as Not My Sort Of Thing, but as Cineworld had re-issued it before its DVD release via Take 2 Thursdays, and as Mrs Blackout wanted to see it but was too polite to insist upon it last year, and as it's garnered a bit of awards recognition, I figured I could give it a go. Besides, with the recent glut of True Story cinema I've seen, an hour and a half of fallout from forced adoption and the Magdalene Laundries should be a walk in the park, right?

So, as it goes Philomena is a thoroughly charming, thoughtful, witty and surprisingly/thankfully un-twee film. It's not entirely unsentimental, of course, but I was certainly expecting more crying and drama. Judi Dench is great as the titular 'Phil' (although she is largely playing Judi Dench™), and at her best when she's underplaying the role in the quieter, more incidental moments. For me though, the show-stealer is Steve Coogan as Martin Sixsmith, the journalist trying to reunite Philomena with the son who was given away for adoption forty five years earlier. It's by no means his story, but it wouldn't work as well without Coogan's contribution (as joint-screenwriter as well as actor). It feels wrong for me to say I'm surprised at how much I enjoyed Coogan, because I love his work anyway and I know he has the range to pull this off, but I have to admit I didn't expect it to work as convincingly as it did.

In terms of the story itself, although it plays its cards clearly and boldly (including almost painful expository phone conversations between Sixsmith and his editor Sally Mitchell, played by Michelle Fairley), you can't help feel that the organisation which is shown to be at the root of all the angst comes off rather lightly. That said, my recent visits to the cinema have done little to calm my liberal outrage at the world, so maybe my perception is skewed at the moment. "Always forgive your enemies. Nothing annoys them quite as much."

All in all, Philomena is a thoroughly enjoyable film, although I do think you'll need to be in the right frame of mind to appreciate it fully. What I'm saying is, I'm recommending it, but don't come up to me and moan at a later date because there aren't enough car chases for you, okay?

Oh, and if you want to hear a middle-aged audience laugh for around 25 seconds at the phrase "feckin' eejit" as if they've never seen an episode of Father Ted, then you might want to catch it in the cinema. Seriously though, the joke about the beard five minutes earlier was far better, in form and execution. Philistines.

Is the trailer representative of the film?

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?
I think so.

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
If you're in the right frame of mind, you'll be glad you rented it.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Will I watch it again?
Doubtful, but I wouldn't avoid it.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
There isn't. For some reason.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

And my question for YOU is…
Am I the only one (yes, I am) who kept internally hearing excerpts from the Alan Partridge audibook throughout the film, especially during the childbirth sequence at the start? ("You see this wasn't now, it's then. The present tense used in this passage is just a literary device so that this next bit comes as a surprise.")

It's alright, you don't have to answer that. I know I'm the only one. Again.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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