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Posts tagged ‘film review’

Film Review: “Philomena” starring Steve Coogan and Judi Dench

I belong to a Film Club which meets every 2 months and a few days ago our film of choice was Philomena.

I’ve now watched it four times in as many days, and during that time I’ve been haunted by the characters, by the story, and by what it tell us about life and about what it means to be human.

I haven’t read the novel by Martin Sixsmith, but it does seem to me from the Amazon reviews of the novel, that Steve Coogan’s choice to make a film of the story, focussing on the relationship between Philomena and Martin Sixsmith in their search for Philomena’s long-lost son, was an inspired choice, and created something far more powerful, moving and effective than the novel which focused on the life of Philomena’s son Michael Hess (born Anthony Lee).

Our film club group had a lively discussion about the film after viewing it, and we examined different angles, with views expressed that see the events from both sides. I think what I like most of all about the film is that it avoids a black and white view of Philomena’s story, which could so easily be “cruelly wronged woman against evil Catholic nuns” (beautifully parodied by Steve Coogan early in the film when he says, “Evil is good. I mean – story-wise.”) The message of the film is far more subtle and complex than that, and brilliantly conveyed in the dynamics of the relationship between Philomena (portrayed by Judi Dench) and Martin Sixsmith (played by Steve Coogan).

And of course the film contains some incisive dialogue about the Catholic Church. As I consider the message I’m left with this thought; how dangerous the challenges and demands of an authoritarian religious faith can be; leading some along the path of harshness, cruelty and judgementalism, and others into the highest reaches of self-sacrifice, holiness and goodness. It’s almost as if, behind it all, lurks the complexity and unaccountability of human psychology, which we can never ignore.

This Guardian article is the best review of the film that I’ve come across which acknowledges this subtlety and the far deeper observations that are being made about the Catholic Church.

Highly-focused, intense, and brilliant: The First Hunger Games Film

Jennifer Lawrence stars as 'Katniss Everdeen' in THE HUNGER GAMES.

Jennifer Lawrence stars as 'Katniss Everdeen' in THE HUNGER GAMES.

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins provides a very exciting, stirring read, engaging young adults – and now of course adults too – with major issues in today’s world.

image of The Hunger Games book 1 cover

I saw The Hunger Games movie having read the trilogy a couple of years ago. I found the books compelling in their narrative of horrific events, in the end delivering several shocks with the deaths and betrayals of characters I liked, but also some ingenious turning points. I felt the final outcome could have been more redemptive / uplifting, especially in view of the epic forces of good and evil this story deals with.

The forces of evil in this hypothetical future America are spiralling decadence, selfishness, obsession with glamour, image and celebrity, and inhumanity – and looking at our own world, if these forces were to reach a certain pitch we can see they would indeed lead us to some such outcome as the Hunger Games. In Panem, the inhabitants of The Capitol revel in the ultimate reality TV, entertained by the violent deaths of randomly drawn teenage “Tributes” from the oppressed

Haymitch, Cinna and Seneca

Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) and Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley)

Districts. Those Capitol citizens behave just as the crowds did in the  ampitheatres of Ancient Rome. The fact that  the young people drawn by lot then sent out to fight to the death are first glamorised, feted and paraded in front of the cameras  alongside an oily TV host, makes it even more chilling. Another strong motif is the vacuous sentimentality of the massed audience, leading them to gush at a possible love affair between the main protagonist Katniss and her fellow-tribute Peeta whilst being equally ready to watch them meet a horrible death at the whim of the Gamemakers under the merciless direction of their Chief, Seneca Crane.

What stood out for me in the movie was Katniss herself. Played by Jennifer Lawrence she was  totally absorbing. Her compassion, her courage, her survival skills and her subtle resistance of the evil in which she was forced to take part shone out.  The intense concentration on Katniss’s every move in the Arena made me feel I was there with her. Our attention and our hopes were 100% on Katniss. The empathy and support she won from her allies Haymitch and Cinna also made a strong emotional impact.

The premise of the story, and narrative flow of the movie was highly unusual and intense. The cinema audience sat in silence throughout, a silence to match the silence behind the action for the first part of the film – save for a few moments in the last half of the film when emotional reactions were inevitable! Brilliant, unforgettable and a sharply-focused portrayal of some of the worst excesses of the western world taken to their logical conclusion.

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