Coogan and Dench are pefection
I have been hearing nothing but positive buzz about Philomena ever since it premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. While I did attend the festival, my associate and fellow critic Nick Iacobucci saw the film, while I went on to see another one of the festival offerings. Nick raved about the film after seeing it and insisted it was a “Must-see” so I have been really excited about seeing the film for several months now and finally I was able to attend a screening.
Philomena (Judi Dench) is a woman with a secret. A secret that she has kept to herself for over 50 years. One day, after reminiscing about her past, Philomena decides to tell her story to her daughter Jane (Anna Maxwell Martin). After hearing the story, Jane informs journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) about her mom’s story and asks if he would be interested in during a human interest piece on her. This begins a heartfelt and comedic journey as Philomena and Martin set out to find the whereabouts of Philomena’s son Anthony, who was given up for adoption when she was a teenager.
Now, while the premise of Philomena doesn’t seem like anything amazing on the surface, the overall film is utterly incredible. The film spends the vast majority of its time focusing on the interaction between Philomena and Martin and the chemistry between Judi Dench and Steve Coogan is some of the best I have seen in years. Coogan is without a doubt the star of this film as he does something that we have never seen him do before and he is damn good at it. What makes this even more of a feat is the fact that these two characters are nothing a like and see the world from a completely different perspective. As the film goes on, you just can’t help but fall in love with both of these characters and you can somehow understand both of their viewpoints.
Philomena is one of those films where you will be laughing at one moment and crying the next. The film’s story which is based on actual events was co-written by Coogan. The script is extremely strong and offers up a lot of great dialogue and several scenes that range from extremely light-hearted and fun to others where the two get into a rigorous debate about religion and God. It is a remarkable script that only helps the performances become as strong and Oscar worthy as they are. The story also contains several twists that allow you as viewers to become more invested into the events that are playing out on-screen.
To be honest, it is really hard for me to find anything that I didn’t like about Philomena. I guess I could complain a little bit about the pacing in some spots but seriously that would be digging a very small hole. It really was a perfect and heartfelt film that told a pretty incredible yet simple story. I think what was most remarkable about the film is really Dench’s reaction when the whole truth is revealed at the film’s end. How she keeps it together is incredible while its Martin, who can’t forgive what was done. It really becomes a conversation piece at that point. While Philomena won’t leave you feeling sad, it will leave you asking yourself “if I were in that predicament, how would I have handled the situation?”
All in all, I loved Philomena. I can see how some people will label this as an old people film or a film that is pure Oscar Bait, however, I almost guarantee that if you have a heart, you will enjoy this film to some degree. I can see how some may not love the film like I did, but I would be really surprised if anyone saw this film and didn’t like it because it really is that good of a film. The chemistry between Dench and Coogan make this film one of the years best. I cannot recommend it enough and think that if you enjoy great character studies that this is definitely the film for you.
MovieManMenzel’s final rating for Philomena is a strong 9 out of 10. This is without a doubt one of the years best.