I got a last minute ticket for this one – right next to the toilets. You’d be amazed how many people pay a visit while the film’s on. On the plus side, the person next to me was a no show so I got two goody bags. On the minus side, my cat has already shat in one of them. Everyone’s a critic.
Judi Dench is Philomena Lee, a determined Irish mammy who wants to track down the son that was taken from her by nuns 50 years ago. Taken from her and sold for adoption as a wonky sort of punishment for having sex before marriage (this was in an orphanage, the nuns didn’t just sneak into her house one night and steal him, that would be bonkers). It’s a horrendous story, made more awful by the fact it’s true – the presence of the real Philomena at this screening was a stark reminder of that.
Steve Coogan is Martin Sixsmith, the ex-Labour spin doctor in need of a career boost, who takes on the challenge of tracking down Philomena’s lost child against his better judgement and can’t quite believe where it leads him. The two make a sparky couple, although the Dame has all the best lines which she spits out with relish. Both performances are excellent, although to be honest, sometimes I found it hard to see beyond Coogan and Dench doing the acting. That won’t stop Dench picking up an Oscar nomination I shouldn’t imagine, they love people doing the acting.
Philomena is wittily written by Coogan, and Stephen Frears a safe pair of hands to direct: it’s classily put together – funny, moving and just the sort of thing your mum will enjoy shedding a tear to on Christmas day when she’s had one sherry too many. Frears knows exactly how to tug on your heartstrings and the film plays on this a bit too much for my liking – it’s got a couple of those YOU WILL CRY HERE moments that always leave me cold. I’m ashamed to admit I remained dry-eyed throughout, though I laughed a lot to compensate. Not at the sad bits, obviously, I’m not a monster.
It’s not a bad film by any means, but maybe a bit too emotionally calculating for me. For sherry-soaked mums on Christmas day though, perfect.