Country: UK, USA, France
Genre: Biography, Drama
Director: Stephen Frears
Music: Alexandre Desplat
Cinematography: Robbie Ryan
Anna Maxwell Martin
Sophie Kennedy Clark
Stephen Frears’ most recent project PHILOMENA is nominated for four Oscars including BEST PICTURE and BEST LEADING ACTRESS for Dame Judi Dench (her 7th nomination, only if she could have been active on big screen from the outset of her career, she would give Meryl Streep a good run for her money of her 18 acting nominations record, now the task falls upon her fellow thespians Kate Winslet or Cate Blanchett, both garner 6 so far).
As mush as I adore Blanchett, the exasperating case is, Dench should have won over her this year, Blanchett in BLUE JASMINE (2013) is astutely an easier kindred spirit for the academy members to relate with, but in this film, Judi Dench personifies the title role, an ordinary Irish retiree who has a tear-jerking back-story which she has withheld for half a century, with a pitch-perfect tonality, she imbues an omnipresent empathy to the role, her perseverance in the route to seeking her long lost son is intermingled with her optimistic nature and hearty philosophy of life, at the climax of the film, she is ineffable when addressing a sounding “I forgive you!”or spurning an indomitable “I didn’t abandon my son!”.
But what’s refining the film is that it is not simply Pilomena’s story, Steve Coogan’s ex-spin doctor Martin Sixsmith is a weighty protagonist as well, who counterbalances the film with his skeptical, cynical, inquisitive constitution of an atheistic journalist, it is a terrific and almost under-appreciated performance from the notable comedian, who is also billed as the co-screenwriter, which is Oscar-nominated as well. During their journey, the subtle interplay between them are beguilingly sincere, Martin evolves from an observer to an interloper in the heightened confrontation scenes near the coda, he bespeaks our rational psyche towards the sensitive issue, he cannot forgive those nuns who traded kids to American patrons and separated them from their unwed mothers, as most of the viewers, it is not a condemnation to the religion per se, it is common indignation towards the vile individuals’ perpetration under the aegis of purported God’s ordeal, as a personal rite of passage, Philomena’s forgiveness is beneficent and pathos-evoking, but as a social miasma, this act of sacrilege cannot be tolerated and it is sheerly irrelevant of religions.
It is a substantially brilliant script as well, far more than a soppy human interest story as it seems to be, it covers many major facets of our contemporary world, such as homosexuality, politics, religious scandals, different world views and self-redemption, at the same time, it teems with jocular segues within, Martin and Pilomena’s proxy son-and-mother bond is beautifully embodied with an ingenious set piece of betraying one’s true emotion under the pretence of a white lie.
I cannot enumerate how great this film is since it is just my cup of tea, nearly perfect, the only thing bugs me is the fact that Philomena firmly assume her son is gay, which seems over-contrived to justify her coolness over the supposed hot potato, another exploitation of stereotyped gay-image, which is not cool at all.