Dir: Stephen Frears
‘Dench’ – A personal or group opinion that an object is good or of excellence. Sometimes used as a synonym for “nice, awesome or sick”.
It may not be officially in most dictionaries yet, but here the term applies in more than one way. This film is excellent, stars Judi Dench, and in my opinion she’s what helps it achieve this most superlative praise!
Based on a true life account, but with a large chunk of dramatic license to make it more suitable for cinema, this tells the story of Philomena Lee (Judi Dench, ‘J. Edgar‘, ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel‘), an elderly lady who after 50 years decides it’s time to open up about how the son she had as a teenager in a convent was taken away from her, and enlists the help of a journalist (Steve Coogan, ‘Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa’), to tell her story and try to find him.
Co-written by Steve Coogan who plays Martin Sixsmith the journalist and author of the book that inspired the film, the screenplay adds a transatlantic journey to the story that really allows time for the relationship between Philomena and Martin to develop. It’s in these exchanges that the film really comes alive.
I don’t know if the real Philomena Lee is actually like the character in the film, but as Judi Dench did meet her and spend some time getting to know her, I would expect so, and so she must be a wonderful lady! Her performance is amazing, so full of little human touches that convey a strong and realistic character. Judi Dench has spoken very warmly of Philomena Lee in interviews, and I think the profound respect she has for her comes across very clearly and must be at the heart of why her performance, and the film, work so very well.
A fascinating true story, that with a little work has been adapted to suit a feature film very well, this is compelling and surprisingly enjoyable.
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