Philomena (2013, Stephen Frears) – Screening Notes

Writing accompanying notes for a film I missed at LFF and have as yet still to see. So a simple synopsis and brief overview of Stephen Frears career is all I could manage. Much prefer writing notes for classic movies when the opportunity arises. 

 Starring: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark
Screenplay by Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope Based on the book ‘The Lost Child of Philomena Lee.’
Directed by Stephen Frears

Based on a shocking true story Philomena attacks its subject matter with passion and a dark sense of humour. Fifty years ago Philomena (Dench) fell pregnant out of wedlock and was forced into a convent. The child was taken away from her. After hearing her story at a party burnt-out journalist Martin Sixsmith (Coogan) agrees to help Philomena find her son and the two begin an unconventional friendship and a journey to uncover the truth.
Stephen Frears – Selected Career Highlights
Now aged 72 years old Frears shows no signs of slowing down. Over a forty year period he has proven himself highly versatile and always at his best when working in tandem with a strong writer. Though he made his film debut in 1971 with the quirky thriller Gumshoe Frears spent the next decade or so honing his skills in television notably for the BBC’s ‘Play for Today’ series.
Frears returned to cinema with a trio of acclaimed British movies. In the understated The Hit (84) a beatific Terence Stamp unsettles two criminals escorting him to his death by calmly accepting his fate. The Hanif Kureshi scripted My Beautiful Laundrette (85) combines a gay love story with a satire about Pakistani immigrants embracing Thatcherism and made a star of Daniel Day-Lewis. Prick Up Your Ears (87) is an even-handed and touching account of the tragic relationship between 60’s playwright Joe Orton and his lover and eventual murderer Kenneth Halliwell.

Frears cracked Hollywoodwith Dangerous Liasons (88), a suitably chilly version of the Pierre Choderlos de Laclos novel, yet moving in its final moments. Martin Scorsese hired Frears to direct The Grifters (90), a bleak crime thriller about a small-time con-artist mixed up in a scheme with his estranged mother. The 90’s proved less successful though with expensive projects Accidental Hero (92), Mary Reilly (96) failing. Frears recovered, successfully relocating Nick Hornby’s much loved novel High Fidelity (2000) to the States.  Gritty thriller Dirty Pretty Things (2002), and the Oscar-winning biopic The Queen (2006) won him more acclaim. Frears is currently filming a biopic of disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong.