Review: PHILOMENA (2013) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Review: PHILOMENA (2013)

Review: PHILOMENA (2013)
Judi Dench and Steve Coogan are terrific together in this bittersweet but formulaic road movie.

The last time that got me impressed with Stephen Frears' directing effort was THE QUEEN back in 2006. That movie was, of course, famously won Helen Mirren a well-deserved Oscar for her impeccable portrayal as Queen Elizabeth II. Of course, he did direct a few movies afterwards -- namely, TAMARA DREWE (2010) and LAY THE FAVORITE (2012) -- before he made a highly-anticipated comeback with the much talked-about PHILOMENA. The movie had already earned (near) universal praises from both US and UK critics when it was released last year and even scored 4 Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Actress for Judi Dench.

Based on the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by journalist Martin Sixsmith, this fact-based story follows an elderly Irish woman named Philomena (Judi Dench) and her quest to search for her son, Anthony, who was taken away from her by the nuns at the convent in the 1950s. Aiding her search is Martin (Steve Coogan), a disgraced ex-BBC correspondent who is now working as a freelance journalist. Their search leads them from the convent she used to work there to Washington, D.C., where they discover Anthony is actually involved in the political arena.
Stephen Frears' direction is effective, and he's particularly good in dealing with actors. Here, both Judi Dench and Steve Coogan deliver some of their finest acting moments as well as sharing great chemistry together. But I'm particularly impressed with Dench's layered performance who excels comfortably in both dramatic and comedic flairs. Anne Maxwell Martin, who appears in a brief role as the daughter of Philomena, Jane, is equally fine as well.

The hotel breakfast buffet scene that turns from lighthearted to a heartfelt moment when Martin discovers the truth about Anthony.

I can't help it but Steve Coogan's and Jeff Pope's adapted screenplay feels cliched and a bit too melodramatic as well.

Overall, PHILOMENA isn't as great as I thought it would be. The acting is undoubtedly superb, but it was the formulaic storyline that doesn't engage me emotionally enough. Although it's far from one of the best movies of 2013 like many critics claimed to be, PHILOMENA remains a decent movie experience.

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