Who Are You Laughing At? – Philomena [short review]

Philomena – 2013 – dir. Stephen Frears

★★★.5/★★★★

Philomena is a meta-journalistic film about an Irish woman who had her child stolen from her by evil nuns, and yes, the meta-journalism of the film is pointed at how ridiculous that story sounds. Judi Dench is the mother and Steve Coogan is the journalist who endeavors to help her find her son. There are plenty of interesting developments in the story and overall it’s a pretty powerful film. However it would probably be better remembered if they had released it on HBO. It would have won some Emmys and probably a few Golden Globes and wouldn’t be remembered as a good TV film released in theatres. 

Aside from that the only problem with the film is that despite the heavy dramatic content, there is some really problematic comedy in the film. As is the point of the comedy in a film like Dr. Strangelove, it can be really funny when people don’t understand ridiculous things or sarcasm. Philomena does this a lot with Judi Dench not understanding sarcasm or saying seemingly random things because she is old. We’re being told to look down and laugh at her and it ruins both the serious tone of the film. The social critique feels hypocritical when jokes keep being poked at Philomena. Dench will probably get an Oscar nod for this but that’s about it. It’s not a great film, but it is a pretty enjoyable watch. 

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