For Reel

Philomena (2013)
December 1, 2013, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Stephen Frears
4 Stars
PhilomenaFor a narrative that deals heavily with the theme of forgiveness, Philomena is surprisingly outraged in many turns, resisting the trap of over-sentimentalizing the wise, simple old dame that gives the film its title. Steve Coogan plays Martin Sixsmith, a former spin-doctor writing a public interest story on Philomena Lee (Judi Dench), an old Irish woman who is trying to track down the son that was taken away from her as a teen. The dynamic between the characters is familiar–he, the insensitive, snobbish one; she, the gullible, kind-hearted one–however each character has surprising moments that tend to resist such easy categorizations. Coogan ably reaffirmed his dramatic chops earlier this year in Michael Winterbottom’s The Look of Love, however his value in Philomena cannot be overstated. Many of the finest moments of the film involve Coogan simply looking at Dench and waiting for her to respond. Said looks not only convey the depth of the empathy that he has for the woman that he occasionally seems to dismiss, but they further draw the audience’s attention to Dench’s beautifully muted performance, making it all the more affecting.

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