Sunday 10 November 2013

Philomena - film review

November 2013

Starring Judy Dench (Philomena Lee) and Steve Coogan (Martin Sixsmith - BBC News at 10) 

A quirky film in the best tradition of British drama which follows Philomena Lee's search for her long lost son. 

Lee gave birth to her son out of wedlock in deeply Catholic Ireland at a time when that sort of thing was a major no no. Her sad tale reflects much of what is bad about the Catholic Church of the day and its fair to say that they dont come out of this very well - another twist of the never ending series of disclosures of child abuse. 

In her case her son is sold to Americans and she gets on with her life, but never quite forgetting her lost son. She tries in vain to track him down but the convent conveniently lost all records on a "big fire" and she hit a dead end. Enter Sixsmith, a world weary journalist and recently "retired" as a government spin doctor in the wake of the "good day to bury bad news" debacle. He picks up the story and used his expertise to take Philomena's search to a new level. 

I am not going to take the plot description any further - go and see the film. 

Within our audience there was physical laughs and tears during the telling of a compelling human interest story. Judy Dench is a bankable star but this is Coogan as an actor with gravitas - a million miles from the Alan Partridge character which irritates the life out of me. 

And that takes me to the cinema we attended. We saw Philomena at Birmingham's Electric Cinema at the back of New St Station (not to be confused with the Electric Cinema in Portobello Road, London).  Its the country's oldest working cinema with two small auditoriums showing a mix of contemporary, independent, foreign and classic films in a genuine art deco setting. There is nothing historic about the visual and audio side of the operation - that's all state of the art - but the ambience makes it a cut above the normal. 

We attended screen two which contains about 70 seats,  of which 60 are "normal" and the rest are sofas at the front and the back. Some of these roomy leather sofas come complete with waiter service summoned by text (another concession to the modern era) and the cinema is happy to run a tab which covers the pre screening cocktails, mid film coffee / chocolate all fortified with a pot of chocolate buttons and ice cream. All very personal and a bit special - you are made to feel like a guest rather than a punter. 

And the cost? Well - quality never comes cheap. The premium sofas are £13.50 a seat and the collection of refreshments listed above set me back another £20. And then there is the parking - a discounted £3 in the adjacent NCP. So just a place for a birthday treat I hear you say. Not necessarily. Strip away the comfy sofa and all the peripheral consumables and you are left with a little cinema of great character - and the standard seats are just £7.40 which is only a small premium over the bulk standard multiplex price. 

I think we have just found our new "regular" cinema! 


Adam said...

I don't know what your standard multiplex is, but at ours in Chichester the regular seats are £9.30 -- so I'd say £7.40 was a bargain!

Andy Tidy said...

Adam - and worth every penny!

Barry and Sandra said...

I adore the Electric Cinema, it's how picture houses should be IMHO :-)

And I so want to see Philiomena, just need to find someone to go with me ...