Movies: Philomena, starring Steve Coogan and Judi Dench

philomenaposterCoogan is the executive producer, co-star and co-writer of this adaptation of a true story. I had no expectations going in, but very much enjoyed Tristam Shandy and The Trip, both of which starred Coogan. Stephen Frears has made some excellent movies in his now long career. And Judi Dench is always powerful and charming.

The odd bit here, the story of an older woman’s search for the son she bore in a nunnery out of wedlock, who was given up for adoption 50 years earlier against her wishes, is Coogan’s decision to frame the story as a mashup of an odd couple road movie (think Rain Man) and an expose of the sordid workings of the Catholic Church (think The Magdalene Sisters). As such we bounce from fish out of water comedy to fervid religious angst, all of it nicely acted and perfectly presentable, all of it without any frisson at all until the actual facts of the case start coming a little clearer.

Then, it is our imaginations that are required to connect the dots. The movie does very little heavy lifting, it seems content to rest on the formidable talents of its stars, who pull if off if you don’t ask too much or think about it too hard.

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