Director: Stephen Frears
Writers: Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
Cast: Steve Coogan, Judi Dench, Mare Winningham and Michelle Fairley
Studio: The Weinstein Company
“Philomena” is like Steve Coogan wanted to do an upbeat version of “The Magdalene Sisters”. Steve Coogan plays a writer trying to develop a human interest piece regarding Philomena Lee. She is an elderly Londoner who was forced to give her baby up for adoption after her father abandoned her at an Irish convent. Philomena doesn’t seem to harbor any ill will towards anyone she meets. However, she wants to find her 50 year old son and tell him that he was loved. Coogan finds this admirable and agrees to help the lady.
Steve Coogan has developed into quite an amazing actor, once he left his schtick behind. He takes a back seat, as Dench develops into her own person. It’s quite amazing to watch, as Coogan is a natural for Frears’ direction style. I’d go so far as to put him on par with Michael Sheen under Frears’ watchful eye. But, this isn’t his film. Sure, the script is amazing and it might squeak out an Oscar nom for Adapted Screenplay. This will forever remain Dench’s senior moment.
Judi Dench will get an Oscar nomination for this film. I have no doubt about it, as the once and future M has shown the world that aging women can take on roles like this and show their warmth. Some might say it’s still a matronly position that’s an easy fit for an older lady. But, it goes past being a matron. There’s a real sense of regret and longing that few people can ever pull off in their laugh. Tender sadness might be the word for it, but even that undersells the emotional weight.
I can see this film struggling to find an audience in America. Most of the Irish baby forced adoptions were pretty vague and unknown to most of America until the release of “The Magdalene Sisters”. Plus, dumping it around the Holidays will scare off most cinematic lightweights. Luckily, there is a Hobbit movie to keep them entertained with CG delights. For those of us that don’t need CG to enjoy themselves, there is always a dramedy to make us think. It’s sad that American audiences have to remind on constant lookout for gems like this. But, we are the empire of multiplexes and waning attention spans. Treat yourself to “Philomena” before you’re having to hunt it down on your preferred streaming service.
RELEASE DATE: 11/27/2013