Sunday, February 09, 2014

Best Picture Primer: Philomena

Of the films nominated this year for Best Picture, Philomena was probably my favourite.  It wasn't the best of all of them - although it was highly enjoyable - and it doesn't feature particularly nice subject matter - the forced adoption programs in Ireland in the 1950s - but the immense skills of Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, not to mention the easy direction of Stephen Frears make this a refreshing escape from AIDS, piracy, and slavery.

One of six films based on true stories this year, Philomena features Coogan as sort-of disgraced writer Martin Sixsmith and Dench as Philomena Lee, who conceived a child out of wedlock, was ultimately shipped off to a convent, from which her son was adopted out to an American couple.  Dench, who hasn't tried in 50 years to contact her son, is finally convinced by her daughter and Sixsmith - reluctantly accepting what he accepts as a human interest assignment - to attempt to track him down, despite several roadblocks thrown up by the Church.

Even though Martin and Philomena discover the identity of her son at only the halfway point of the film, her quest to find out about his life and meet the people in it - and ultimately find out if he knew about her - coupled with Sixsmith's underlying goal to rail against the practices of the Catholic Church, fill the remainder of the film's refreshing 98-minute runtime. 

This is certainly a film for a different audience than many of the other films in the Best Picture category and certainly won't win without a single technical award, but should certainly not be overlooked if you're trying to find something to watch.

Other Nominations

Best Actress - Judi Dench
Original Score - Alexandre Desplat
Adapted Screenplay - Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope

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