If you are expecting to have your mind-blown by a groundbreaking film, Philomena is not for you. This is a very basic film that it typical British drama. However, it is a great film that has a touching story and wonderful performances by a pair of leads that are absolutely eclectic.
True stories or, as Steve Coogan’s character dismissingly calls them, human interest stories, are commonly made into films and can be anywhere from sweet and sentimental to snobbish and just plain unwatchable, because let’s be honest, sometimes Hollywood takes liberties to tug at the heartstrings of the audience, or even violently play them like an emotional Yo-Yo Ma. Philomena does create the image of “good person wronged by institution”, and it would have been very easy for it to take a boring anti-establishment image and turn it into a film. However, Coogan and Jeff Pope created a sad story that is also strangely uplifting, and yes, bitterly hilarious at times. The film is the very definition of what a drama film should be – a story that conveys a very serious message but does not mind adding a few comedic moments to break the tension. Shakespeare did it in many of his tragedies, and this film is actually almost Shakespearean in its story and execution. Bravo from that perspective.
This film is driven by the performances – a shoddy performance from either of the two leads would make this movie suicidally bad. But of course Dame Judi Dench delivers another one of her amazing performances (her shocking performance in Notes on a Scandal will remain one of the most amazing female performances in history). But the most surprising performance is from Coogan. If you’re like me, and you’re used to the sadistic and absurd humor of Coogan, then seeing him in a performance like this is a revelation. He too goes through an emotional and spiritual journey and we feel for him as much as we do for Philomena. They are a pair of great performances, and I wouldn’t mind seeing Coogan and Dench reunite for another film someday – they have perfect chemistry and they are a joy to watch.
This film isn’t grand opera, but it is a great film that is beautiful, touching and will make everyone cry just a little bit. Beautiful film that carries an important message