Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Things To Do

Review: 'Philomena' full of humor, heartache

Philomena (PG-13) (98 min.) — The title is the name of an aging Irish woman with a lifelong secret she can keep no more. Decades before, Philomena Lee was an unwed teenage mother banished to a convent, forced into servitude for her sin and separated from her newborn son. Like many of the convent's children, the boy, named Anthony, was adopted.

Philomena always wondered what became of Anthony, if he ever thought of her. On what would be Anthony's 50th birthday, she wants to know.

Thus begins Philomena's emotionally complex quest, played more amusingly than expected thanks to the personalities involved and several unforeseen twists. That is, unless you've read Martin Sixsmith's book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, chronicling his investigation, with her, into Anthony's fate, and the ravages of Catholic guilt. The movie's funnier than that sounds yet as tear-tugging as the subject deserves, and carried by a terrific performance.

Dame Judi Dench's Philomena is among her career's most optimistic characters, a woman who despite her circumstance is free of self-pity or vindictiveness, finding silver linings in nuns who sold children, sending them away. "They were only trying to get them a better life," she chirps, and her empathy hurts. Age lines in Dench's face become a hundred smiles or frowns depending on Philomena's mood, and the camera leans close, examining each one.

Steve Coogan's Martin plays perfectly against Philomena's dotty charm with cynical wit mostly over her head, barely tolerating his chipper companion and her recitations of plots of romance novels. An underestimated talent in the United States, this British comedian co-wrote a zesty screenplay, including the priceless grumble: "She told four people today they're one in a million. What are the chances of that?"

Director Stephen Frears keeps the humor and heartache coming at a stately pace, muting the story's innate sentimentality. Anthony's patiently uncovered truths are the only real surprises. Philomena is simply one of those small, true stories that astonish in print and inspire good movies, showing up in theaters just in time for awards consideration. In Dench's case, consider her an Oscar favorite. B+

Steve Persall, Times movie critic

Comments

Thursday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballMurray State at Belmont7 p.m.ESPNUJacksonville State at Morehead State7 p.m.CBSSNWomen: Florida at Arkansas7 p.m.SECWomen: Tennessee at Notre Dame7 p.m.ESPNMinnesota at Maryland8:30 p.m.FS1UNC Asheville at Winthrop9 p.m.ESPNUSt...
Updated: 2 hours ago
‘The X-Files’ Season 11, Episode 3: 18 things we learned in ‘Plus One’

‘The X-Files’ Season 11, Episode 3: 18 things we learned in ‘Plus One’

The X-Files delights in keeping viewers on their toes, asking dozens of questions and only half-answering half … only to turn around a few episodes (or seasons) later and challenge those same notions. Herewith is a list of things we learned in ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Shake Shack, Momofuku and more: Please come to Tampa Bay

Shake Shack, Momofuku and more: Please come to Tampa Bay

Fabio is coming! Not the Fabio on your romance novel, with the billowing hair and large quantities of artificial butter. This Fabio, in all likelihood, uses real butter. And olive oil. Fabio Viviani, the charming Top Chef alum known for appearances...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Time to carbo load: Three new bakeries include an Australian bakery, second La Segunda

Time to carbo load: Three new bakeries include an Australian bakery, second La Segunda

LA SEGUNDAA Tampa Bay giant has stirred and is on the move. La Segunda Central Bakery, a family-owned Ybor City institution for nearly 103 years (they celebrated that birthday Jan. 15) and the largest producer of Cuban bread in the world, will open a...
Updated: 9 hours ago
SoundBytes: Black Angels, Black Lips, Carbon Leaf, Ripe and more

SoundBytes: Black Angels, Black Lips, Carbon Leaf, Ripe and more

— Psych-rockers the Black Angels, above, and Black Lips are teaming up for a spring tour that'll hit the State Theatre on April 18. Click here for details.— Nathaniel Rateliff and the  Night Sweats are coming to Jannus Live on May 5 ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Plan your weekend Jan. 19-21: Gasparilla Children’s Parade, Jake Owen, Riverdance, Florida Orchestra’s Dvorak

Plan your weekend Jan. 19-21: Gasparilla Children’s Parade, Jake Owen, Riverdance, Florida Orchestra’s Dvorak

Plan your weekendGasparillaChildren’s Parade: A week before the more raucous pirate invasion, the G-rated version hits the streets. The Children’s Gasparilla Extravaganza and Parade kicks off Gasparilla season with a bicycle safety rodeo on Saturday ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
13 things to do in Tampa Bay on Jan. 18

13 things to do in Tampa Bay on Jan. 18

Darlene Love: One of the most influential singers in rock and roll, Love has been singing since the 1950s. She was one of the legendary backup singers featured in the documentary 20 Feet From Stardom. 8 p.m., Tampa Theatre, 711 Franklin St., Tampa. ...
Published: 01/17/18
What’s in theaters this week: ‘Call Me by Your Name,’ ‘Phantom Thread,’ ‘12 Strong’

What’s in theaters this week: ‘Call Me by Your Name,’ ‘Phantom Thread,’ ‘12 Strong’

OPENING FRIDAY:CALL ME BY YOUR NAMEAnother young man’s summer he’ll never forget is the core of Call Me By Your Name, a movie to likewise treasure. Luca Guadagnino’s coming out-of-age drama is a rare exception to familiar romantic rules.This film’s s...
Published: 01/17/18
‘Woke’ artists return to Tampa, explore Steven Kenny’s surrealist landscapes

‘Woke’ artists return to Tampa, explore Steven Kenny’s surrealist landscapes

TWO-FER: UTOPIAS AND UNFILTEREDMark Thomas Gibson and William Villalongo are New York-based artists whose individual work explores the black experience in America, in both historical and personal contexts. Their work was showcased in the powerful but...
Published: 01/17/18
Top things to do this week: Steve Martin and Martin Short, Gasparilla Children’s Parade

Top things to do this week: Steve Martin and Martin Short, Gasparilla Children’s Parade

PICKING AND GRINNING: Steve Martin and Martin ShortThere wasn’t a lot of bluegrass being played around Hamilton, Ontario, when Martin Short was a kid. But his decades-long friendship with Steve Martin has made him a fan, which brings An Evening With ...
Published: 01/17/18