|SHADOWS ON THE WALL | REVIEWS | NEWS | FESTIVAL | AWARDS | Q&A | ABOUT | TALKBACK|
dir Stephen Frears
scr Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope
prd Steve Coogan, Tracey Seaward, Gabrielle Tana
with Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Anna Maxwell Martin, Peter Hermann, Mare Winningham, Ruth McCabe, Barbara Jefford, Kate Fleetwood, Michelle Fairley, Cathy Belton, Charlie Murphy
release UK 1.Nov.13, US 25.Dec.13
13/UK Pathe 1h38
In search of a son: Dench and Coogan
VENICE FILM FEST
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
A shameless crowd-pleaser, this warmly engaging drama is based on a remarkable true story. And it also offers Dench and Coogan the chance to create complex, involving characters we can identify with. The film sometimes feels harshly edited, zipping through serious scenes with an emphasis on sentimentality. But it still wins us over.
In 2002, after journalist Martin Sixsmith (Coogan) is sacked from his job as a government spin doctor, he decides to take on a human interest story: an old Irish woman, Philomena Lee (Dench), is trying to find the son she was forced to give up for adoption 50 years earlier. But the nuns at her old workhouse aren't any help, so when they learn that babies were sold to Americans, Martin and Philomena travel across the Atlantic to continue their search. This sends them on a twisty journey that's packed with emotional discoveries.
The film has a refreshingly light touch as it tackles big issues without over-egging them. Martin is a lapsed Catholic who's initially dismissive of Philomena's still-devout beliefs, especially because of what the church has done to her personally. But as the story progresses, he starts to understand that her faith gives her a strength that he can't even imagine. He also grows to admire her straight-talking pragmatism, earned through years of working as a nurse.
Both of these characters are snappy and entertaining, especially as they're played with sparky wit and darker shadings by these two gifted actors. Dench digs especially deep into Philomena's inner life; without ever being obvious about it, we understand her conflicting emotions every step of the way. In flashbacks, Kennedy Clark adds a mixture of youthful hope and anguish that we can still see in Dench's eyes.
Frears directs the film with a relaxed fluidity that augments the emotional flashpoints but never feels manipulative. This is augmented by Alexandre Desplat's disarmingly tuneful score and Robbie Ryan luxuriant photography. So we can almost forgive the way the editing skips over mundane moments to concentrate on key revelations. As a result there are some astonishingly moving scenes, such as when Philomena watches a reel of home movies of her son growing up. This is shot in an askance way that puts us right in Dench's shoes, and it's almost unbearably beautiful.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
|Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.|
© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
HOME | REVIEWS | NEWS | FESTIVAL | AWARDS | Q&A | ABOUT | TALKBACK