Blu-ray Review “Philomena”

Actors: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan
Director: Stephen Fears
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Release Date: April 15, 2014

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Who doesn’t love Judi Dench? The woman is a legend. She continues to show just how amazing she is through her films. She is able to be sly and cool playing M in new James Bond series and then she is able to play very sharp and touching characters like Philomena Lee. The film is based on the 2009 investigative book by Martin Sixsmith “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee”. In terms of acting, WoW! Both Dench and Steve Coogan really give wonderful performances. I really enjoyed the that the film was able to blend nicely the comedy with the drama. It is probably a film I will never watch again but definitely work checking out if you enjoy watching the actors at their best.

Official Premise: Judi Dench stars in the story of Philomena Lee, mother to a boy conceived out of wedlock and given up for adoption. Nearly 50 years later, Philomena meets Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), a former BBC reporter looking for his next big story. Together, they embark on a journey to locate her long lost son. As the pieces of the puzzle come together, the unlikely travel companions form a comic and heartwarming friendship.

“Philomena” gets delivered to us as a Blu-ray combo pack along with an Digital HD UltraViolet copy. The 1080p transfer and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track work well for the simple film that this is. There is nothing really wrong but at the same time nothing really special either. The Blu-ray comes with some decent special features. There is “A Conversation with Judi Dench”, which talks about the character which she takes on in the film. “The Real Philomena Lee” is a nice biography of the featured lady. There is a Q&A with Steve Coogan, who is always brilliant. Lastly there is a audio commentary with Steve Coogan and Screenwriter Jeff Pope, definitely worth a listen.

Film Review “Philomena”

Starring: Judi Dench and Steve Coogan
Directed by: Stephen Frears
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 1 hour 38 mins
The Weinstein Company

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

Philomena Lee (Dench) is celebrating an important birthday today. Not her own, mind you. 50 years ago the young Philomena met a handsome young man at the local carnival and ended up with a prize she didn’t expect. Sent to the local Abbey to have the baby she finds herself indentured to the nuns, working to not only pay for the care of her child but to “atone for her sins.” When her young son is put up for adoption she is devastated, never forgetting the little boy she loves.

Equal parts affecting yet exhilarating, “Philomena” is that rare congress of a talented triangle of acting, writing and directing. Dench is brilliant as the adult Philomena (she recently received her seventh Academy Award nomination for her work here). In spite of her generally outgoing appearance there is a sadness behind her eyes born of five decades of heartbreak. Coogan, who also co-wrote the film with British-television writer Jeff Pope, is equally effective in a rare dramatic turn. Best known for his work in comedies like “Tropic Thunder” and “Hamlet 2,” he excels here as former BBC journalist Martin Sixsmith, on his own journey of redemption after being caught in a political scandal. Special credit must also be given to Sophie Kennedy Clark, whose performance as the younger Philomena matches Dench’s note for note.

Coogan, Pope and director Frears have managed to make religion the centerpiece of the film without you really knowing they have. Whatever your beliefs, you will silently begin to question them as the film progresses. This is done subtlety…there is no giant hammer hitting you over the head. As the film progresses, from Ireland to America and back, you are constantly mulling over who, and what, was right or wrong. Martin convinces his editor that this will be a “human interest story” but it truly is much, much more.