Film Review: A Quiet Journey Into the Past


Note: as part of Throwback Thursday, I’m posting this (very short) piece I wrote December 10, 2013, for my LiveJournal blog. I am planning to slowly move over anything of substance from LiveJournal to this one, with plans on turning the LiveJournal into something else. I may revisit this movie again and re-write this review.

Philomena, written by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, based on the book by Steve McVicker, directed by Stephen Frears. Copyright 2013. Buy at

In the end, it’s Judi Dench that makes Philomena soar. Of course, there’s not many roles Dench takes on that don’t come across excellent, but the movie – based on the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by Martin Sixsmith – is definitely hers from start to finish.

Steve Coogan, who also co-wrote the screenplay, plays Sixsmith, a journalist looking for a fluff human interest piece in order to pay the bills after losing job. He finds the story of Philomena, who had given up her son for adoption as she was unmarried at the time. Coogan, best known for his comedic roles, does a fine job of playing to (and with) Dench, sometimes the straight man to Dench’s character (and Irish accent).

While the movie isn’t the type to make me want to run out and grab the next person I see and say, “You have to watch this film!”, it’s one of those great dramas that sits back at the back of your mind while you fall so deep into the story that you forget you’re watching a movie and not a documentary. It’s a quiet movie. The movie’s quality sneaks up on you, interspersed between laughing at Dench talking about her ‘gay homosexual son’ and her recommending a romance book to Sixsmith and subsequently telling him the entire plot of said book. What that means, though, is it takes a bit to get into the film and it’s not until later that you realize how good of a film you actually saw.

But the movie is good: well written, well acted, and the plot is compelling. I wanted to know more about Philomena’s search, and one of these days – when I’ve created the 48 hour day – I’d like to sit down and read the book it’s based on.

If you’re a fan of British drama or of Dench, it’s worth checking out. You won’t regret it.