Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Feel Of Philomena (Movie Review: Philomena)

The Holiday Movie Season just started, and I think I've already found my favorite: Philomena. I hope come Awards season, Dame Judi Dench will be given her due, because she gives such a stunning and intelligent performance here that, in my book, will be very hard to beat. She plays Philomena Lee, a woman in her 70s living in Ireland, who is looking for her son. In 1952, she got pregnant, and after giving birth in a nunnery, her son was adopted (against her will) by an American couple who raised her child in America. Now, she is determined to find closure by looking for him. What follows next is a poignant, somewhat bizarre story. I hadn't known that this was based on a true story, and a book (Martin Sixsmith's "The Lost Child Of Philomena Lee" from 2009) so I gleefully followed each turn. About two thirds in, I was stunned by a revelatory twist, and I was a mess. The film gently balances the laughter and the tears - it's one of those movies wherein you find yourself laughing as tears are still streaming from your eyes. And yes, Dame Judi: she gives a quiet, dignified, subtle performance. On the hands of a lesser actress, this character would be caricature-ish, but she knows when to pull back that you know every nuance, every gesture of Philomena is honest, believable, true. I was mesmerized by her. And Steve Coogan matches her scene by scene - when she turns almost sappy, he puts bitter in there so the result is never too much of anything. This may sound like a depressing picture, but I felt buoyant after, even life-affirming. I truly hope this movie doesn't get trampled by the biggies and finds its audience here.

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