Thursday, December 12, 2013


"Human interest tends to be a euphemism for stories about vulnerable, weak-minded, ignorant, people to fill up the pages of newspapers read by vulnerable, weak- minded, ignorant people."

So retorts a priggish correspondent (Steve Coogan), currently embroiled in a political controversy that cost him his job at the BBC, upon a suggestion of an attempt at pathos in his return to journalism (his Russian history project doesn't seem to be raising many eyebrows). After sulking and mulling it over, he changes his mind and contacts a woman he had recently turned away, who approached him with the story of her mother (Judi Dench) who became impregnated and abandoned as a teen, was taken in by a convent in rural Ireland, and had her child confiscated and sold to the highest bidder. Realizing the magnitude of this lead and its many possible outcomes, he joins the naive, kindhearted, little old lady on a trip to the States to see what has become of her now fifty year old son. The above sanctimonious quote is at the heart of what makes this such a worthwhile experience: what could have been an insufferable buddy movie is instead tinged with just the right amount of honey and vinegar resulting instead in an involving, moving journey. Dench reminds us why she has remained at the top of her field with an affecting, genuine performance and Coogan, who wrote the screenplay with Jeff Pope, has devised the perfect role for his own prickly personality. Stephen Frears' film has generated a small storm of controversy for taking big shots at both the Catholic Church and the American Right, and the picture definitely has the capacity to both alienate and inflame, but at its core is the story of two people, one decent, one mindful, who combine to form a humanistic portrait.