Wednesday 20 November 2013


There's nothing better than a winter Sunday at the cinema. This weekend we went to see Steve Coogan and Dame Judi Dench in the wonderful Philomena.

After falling pregnant at the age of 18, Philomena is banished by her family to a convent, where she is to remain and work for four years. At three years old, Anthony Lee is given up for adoption, leaving Philomena no clues as to his whereabouts or if she'll ever see him again. So heartbroken and ashamed, she keeps her secret for 50 years, until she meets Martin Sixsmith, an ex-BBC journalist looking for a new direction. He agrees to help her in exchange for her story, not knowing where it might lead them...

On first impression it may seem like just a little movie about one woman's search for her long lost son, but actually, as Martin Sixsmith said himself, Philomena's story is a realistic and brutal reflection on life in 1950s Ireland. If you have already seen the film, you'll find Sixsmith's 2009 article a very interesting read. If you haven't seen it yet though, definitely don't spoil it for yourself. The whole excitement of the film is travelling along the journey with them.

Although the story of the real Philomena and Anthony Lee is slightly altered, that's not to say the film has been glamorised in any way; it's true to the events, and still says everything it needs to. The only issue for me was that Sixsmith's search for Anthony apparently lasted five years, whereas the movie has quite a quick turn around.

Dame Judi is, of course, magnificent. Not quite the MI5 boss or Shakespearean heroine that we're used to, she plays the title role perfectly; sweet on the outside, but fiery when she needs to be. In his Jonathan Ross interview, Steve Coogan admitted that he felt quite relaxed around her on set, and then she'd take off the little-old-lady facade and he'd suddenly realise "Oh God, it's M!" Just goes to show that Dame Judi can conquer any role - but we knew that already.

If I'm honest, I've never been the biggest fan of comedian Steve Coogan, but serious actor Steve Coogan, I like a lot. If this is the direction he's taking from now on, I'll be pleased to watch him whenever. As Philomena's contrast, he was well-cast as the political journalist with a hidden heart.

An unbelievable story retold beautifully. There were big laughs and big tears, and two brilliant performances. And the BAFTA goes to...?


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