Philomena is an excellent example of a movie that doesn’t need anything but an interesting story, solid performances, and great dialogue to make it one of the best films of the year. This review can end right here, but I’ll go on.
Philomena tells the story of Philomena Lee, a woman who had her son taken away when they were both very young as she was not married and related to the church. Years later, author Martin Sixsmith is looking to write a new book and chooses Philomena’s story. Martin then takes Philomena on a journey to find her son. This was “inspired by true events.”
It’s hard not to be intrigued and saddened by that story, and the movie uses both of those feelings extremely well. This movie never slows down with its terrific pacing and tugs at your heartstrings more than any movie I have seen this year. I’m a teenage boy and I almost cried multiple times while watching Philomena.
The dialogue was also fantastic. Besides the emotional moments, the movie has a sense of humor to it. It’s not up there with some of the best comedies of the year, but it’s still an absolute delight. Major props to screenwriters Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope for crafting one of the best screenplays of the year.
Speaking of Steve Coogan, he is fantastic in this film. His character plays the role of the audience, listening to the adorable Philomena and playing so well off of her. And, of course, Judi Dench as Philomena is one of the best performances of the year and I pray (which is ironic after watching this film) that she goes home with some of those statues. The rest of the supporting cast is also great, although there really are no standouts.
The score of the film is very subtle but when the film has its few moments of silence where it gives the music its chance in the spotlight, it excels. Not an incredible score that I must run out and buy, but it was good enough where it deserves its own paragraph in this review. The composer is Alexandre Desplat (nominated for five Oscars, most recently for Argo).
Finally, director Stephen Frears and cinematographer Robbie Ryan do a commendable job. Philomena’s visuals aren’t going to blow you away, but I walked away impressed with the colors in many scenes and overall great camera work.
Few films impress me as much as Philomena did. I could nitpick the film, but I walked away so pleased that it’s not worth the effort. The great performances, excellent screenplay, and solid direction and score make Philomena my favorite movie of the year (so far) and one that I implore you to see.