I find the Oscars a tad ironic, they recognize (supposition) the best films in a year and yet somehow condemn the ones they elect to scrutiny and criticism. To a few people like myself, “Winner of Academy Award” on the DVD cover does nothing. But if there are too many wins by a movie one gets a feeling that there is going to be too much artiness, the ones which one must truly avoid are perhaps those with olive wreaths on them.
Anywho when I saw Dame Judi Dench got nominated for best actress I said this one deserves a viewing. If Meryl Streep gets nominated you generally don’t blink an eye for the longest running punchline of every Oscar host for the last decade is surely around the 18 times her names been called. The Academy Awards in itself were rather disappointing, not the results but the event. Selfies(still not a word in the browser dictionary I see), pizza delivery and a lack of good stage acts are all perhaps a reflection of our age. There used to be musical pieces, good comedy, this time however things were a little drab for those who don’t twitter rave. These awards however remain a good way to find what movies to watch so for Philomena I must thank them.
The movie is based on the true story of an Irish, god fearing catholic woman and her search for her long lost son. The son in question is conceived in means which brings color to the cheeks of young teenage girls and out of those of nuns. Philomena is taken in by a convent which ‘reforms’ young naughty girls while putting the fruits of their sins up for adoption by wealthy couples from across the Atlantic. After 50 years of separation, Phil seeks her son with the help of a discredited Press secretary and former journalist, Martin Sixsmith (played by Steeve Coogan).The story stands on the shoulders of these two characters and their relationship. Phil despite her ordeals holds great faith in the church and God while the cynical Martin is an agnostic who seems to be eyeing atheism with some interest. The search leads the pair from the abbey to America, the two learn a great deal about Phil’s long lost son as well as each other. After you have seen Judi Dench redefine the term ‘composure’ in movies like Skyfall here you find a totally different creature. Sweet, innocent, full of energy and over all a very grandma like figure with smatterings of zest. Coogan has moments where he goes beyond the goldfish open mouth act and they are nice but there is no doubt as to who is carrying the film.
The inhumanity of those who are considered paragons of kindness and compassion, along with the fact this was the reality for a mother and son, makes for a sad tale. Perhaps the film holds greater appeal for atheists as it makes a case in point against self righteous religious factions who despite a stereo-typically pious life make such morally abhorrent decisions. You shall be riled by the nuns, smile at Phil & Martin’s conversations and feel for the mother and son. Overall a success and although I have not seen Cate’s performance in Blue Jasmine, Dench’s performance here couldn’t have made the award for Best Actress an easy choice. Here is something not from the film but which throws light on the actor’s talent.