10 Days of Oscars: Philomena

BY: DIANA SANGLAB

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“Philomena” could have been one of the most formulaic sentimental comedies of the year.  Luckily, this was avoided thanks to the combination of the wonderful performances of Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, and the directing of Steven Frears. Based on BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith's novel, “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee”,  “Philomena” follows the titular character on her attempt to seek out her son after 50 years. Sixsmith, a journalist, is trying to get his life back together and believes that telling the human interest story of Philomena will get him his big break back in the public eye.

The film chooses to focus on the relationship of the two, and how Sixsmith and others are humbled by the ordinariness of Philomena. The cynical fussy journalist goes through the most character development, as Philomena can be unrealistic at some points. She does stick to her main philosophy of life all throughout, and never blames others for any wrongdoing, despite the events in the film. The audience is represented through Sixsmith, then, who voices the emotions and concerns that the former does not.

The pacing of the movie is fast at some points, and slow at others. One thing remains constant: if one is unsure of where the plot is going, Sixsmith consistently reports back to his editor, spelling out the various themes out to the audience. The hand-holding in the film can be a bit annoying at times, but after a while, it is seamless with everything else that goes on. The smooth, interlacing flashbacks in the movie also adds another depth to the film that brings a historical context to what was going on in Ireland with young mothers and forced adoptions.

The many touching moments in this film can draw audiences to tears, and the articulately-placed comedy scenes add a well-suited amount of humor. Overall, “Philomena” succeeds in being a pleasant film, leaving audiences with just the right amount of warm feeling in their hearts.

While the acting and directing was strong, with competition like “American Hustle” and “12 Years a Slave”, films that have been neck-and-neck with awards, the chances are slim.