'Philomena' is one of the best British movies of the year.
Don't laugh. We're serious. Stephen Frears' new movie Philomena, based on the investigative book by BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith, could well figure in the behemoth that is the American movie awards season following stunning reviews in its homeland this week.
It stars Oscar-winner Judi Dench as the title character, a mother to a boy conceived out of wedlock, something her Irish-Catholiccommunity didn't take kindly to. The child was given away for adoption to the United States and Philomena was forced to sign a doctrine promising she would not look for him. Years later, she meets Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), a BBC reporter with whom she decides to set off on a journey to find her long-lost son.
Bolstered by a wonderfully humorous script to avoid soppy sentimentalities and two outstanding performances from Coogan and Dench - not to mention Anna Maxwell Martin, probably one of Britain's finest actresses - Philomena is critically acclaimed.
In his review of the movie, our own Rich Cline said: "...what makes the film so powerfully entertaining is the way Frears and Dench let us see all of this through Philomena's relentlessly curious eyes."
"This is a doleful, radiant, understated comedy of hope and faith. That's almost a definition of good British cinema," said Nigel Andrews of the Financial Times.
"A terrific, sophisticated comedy that tackles serious issues with a lightness of touch and a spirit of steel, Philomena is the British film to beat come BAFTA time," wrote Damon Wise of Empire magazine.
"We prepared ourselves for an emotional explosion-not for physical violence, but for that of a bursting heart-and yet, when the time came, that is not what happened. Frears put the pin back in the grenade, as it were," wrote Anthony Lane of the New Yorker.
Judi Dench [L] and Steve Coogan [R] in 'Philomena'
Should Philomena feature this awards' season, Lane's fellow critics stateside will need to echo his opinion ahead of the movie's release there at the end of November. Clearly, Philomena is positioned strongly for an assault on the British awards calendar - both in movie and acting categories - though it's not beyond the realms of possibility that it could pick up Oscar shouts.
Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope have already won Best Screenplay for Philomena at the 70th Venice International Film Festival and the movie itself was awarded the People's Choice Award runner-up prize at Toronto. Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine is likely to be the frontrunner for the scribe's award at the Oscars, though Frears is a popular director in Academy circles and nominations are not out of the question.
Also, this thing is being distributed in the U.S. by The Weinstein Company and Harvey knows a thing or two about getting close to the gold statuettes.