Here at Broad Appeal we try and avoid all honorific titles and that includes “national treasure”. But as it turns out, Judi Dench has earned these platitudes: regal imperiousness is her USP! To say her range is limited to the odd monarch or head of MI6, however, is to do her a disservice. PHILOMENA may look like the perfect film to watch with your aunt, but like The Dench herself, it's far more than that. Judi D. plays the titular Phil, an Irish woman who for years kept a secret close to her heart: doing penance to unforgiving nuns for birthing an unwed child (and for the sin of enjoying the sex that conceived him!). She lived her whole adult life with her boy taken from her. Now she's teamed up with the cynical journo Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), whose level of smugness is perfectly matched with Philomena's polite way of managing B.S. But a wacky buddy-comedy this is not: PHILOMENA is a funny, heartfelt, emotional story handled with superb tact by Stephen Frears, and completely owned by Judi, melting hearts and filling every silence with maternal grace and faithful purity. Any film that deals with gayness, transatlantic identities, Catholicism and old ladies can definitely get Seán and Brian talking. And talk we did.
BAD: TEA WITH MUSSOLINI
What do you get when you combine Judi Dench, Cher, Maggie Smith, Lily Tomlin and someone called Joan Plowright with a bunch of hot Italian men, World War II and a healthy dose of fascism? The answer... practically nothing. TEA WITH MUSSOLINI is exactly the kind of film you'd expect from a right-wing homosexual, wistfully recounting his misspent youth amongst delightfully polite blackshirts. Maggie sympathises, Joan frets, Cher is rich and Judi goes gaga for her pooch. Even if the film is bloodless, Seán and Brian make sure to spill plenty of tea during the conversation. We like ours strong. Et tu, Benito?
CRAZY: NOTES ON A SCANDAL
Don't you just love it when the bourgeoisie debase themselves? In what is undoubtedly a masterpiece in malice, Judi delivers her best performance ever in NOTES ON A SCANDAL. She is Barbara Covett, a petrified husk of an educator, who believes that Sapphic machinations form the basis of any good friendship. And yet even Dench's detestability is put to the test by Cate Blanchett's Sheba Hart: performing youth outreach in the form of sexual favours offered to the underaged. NOTES ON A SCANDAL is what happens when truly talented people get together to make utter trash - sure it disagrees with our bowels, but we can’t get enough of it.