Soundtrack Review: Philomena

Soundtrack Review: Philomena

Philomena Soundtrack Review: This is a review of the film score Philomena by Alexandre Desplat.

At a glance:

Geek Score: 82.1
Total Minutes Of Excellence: 14.98
Album Excellence: 29%

How are the scores calculated and what does it mean?

Philomena is based on a true story where a British reporter is fired and tired of life finds a human interest story about a woman, Philomena, who had a son long ago, but the son was taken away from her as she was forced to live in a convent. She want to reunite with him so they travel to America to find the truth about her son. Is he still alive? The second trailer of this film makes it seem like a inspirational rollercoaster of a ride which means I need to watch it as it looks very interesting. The story seems to be perfect for an emotional night in the sofa, and hopefully with a happy ending. The movie is directed by Stephen Frears and the score is composed by Alexandre Desplat. This score was nominated for the 2013 Academy Awards, but ultimately lost out to Gravity by Steven Price.

Philomena seems like a charming and funny woman so the opening cue ‘Philomena’ is trying to be both, and sort of succeeds. It’s definitely charming and a little bit funny, but sadly it’s not as memorable as I’d hoped it would be. Martin, the journalist has a much more hurried and dramatic theme in ‘Martin’. This feels much more alive. I don’t see him as this guy who is hurrying about though. He seems like a calm man with some quirks, but I’m basing this on the trailers so I might be way off. The way Desplat writes the music for him though has me puzzled. ‘Birth’ must be about the birth of Philomena’s son. It must have happened under dramatic circumstances and the cue is certainly that. It has an interesting rhythm going and the minimalistic motif on top gives it an edge. It’s a bit like a thriller cue to be honest. I like it though.

‘Laundry’ and specially ‘Adoption’ has that Desplat feel about it whether you like it or not. Some would say this is quite lovely, and some would say this is quite boring. I would say it’s somewhere in the middle. ‘Drives To Roscrea’ I like a bit more because it’s uplifting and a bit of fun. The swirling motif on top make it sound like they are whizzing away in the car. The second half of that very short cue is depressive though and dampen the mood a bit. ‘Reminiscence’ is in dark and deep drama territory only lifted by a very nice piano motif just before the middle of the cue. I enjoy this one though. The second half sounds a bit magical, but still a bit dark. ‘Airport’ is a little bit dreamy, feels like a nice summer theme, a little bit of waltz as well. The Philomena theme is starting to be a bit more recognizable now, but I still suspect it will be gone from my mind once I’m done listening to this score. It’s quite catchy as an “in the moment” kind of theme though.

I love Judi Dench. She can make anything exciting which is another reason to watch this movie. I can’t imagine what her character must feel as she is landing in USA. Luckily Desplat wrote a cue about that called ‘Landing In USA’ which is really good, particularly the second half of the cue. Sadly ‘Discovering Michael’ which should have a massive outlet of emotions, but Desplat makes it sound bittersweet. What’s wrong? Not what they’d hope for? There’s a theme I might have missed and it’s my favorite one. I remember I heard it in the second part of ‘Landing In USA’ and now I’m hearing it again in ‘Mary’. I don’t know who Mary is and what role she has, but maybe she is the mother of “Michael”?

One of Desplat’s trademark is a certain bass rhythm is uses in a lot of his scores and that is getting some play time with ‘Confession’. Other than that, there’s a little bit ostinato on top with plucked strings and piano. ‘Memories’ play the Philomena theme again. I’ve notice this in previous versions of her cue. There’s a flute in there that sounds like it’s from the middle ages. Very interesting. ‘No Thought Of Ireland’ is the darkest cue on the score. There’s a dark synth underneath and a simple and slow melody on top. ‘Anthony’s Story’ brings us back to the very romantic and wonderful theme heard in ‘Mary’ among other cues. This is by far the best version though, but it only plays for about a minute. ‘Anthony’s Story’ is not all happy times as Desplat is hitting the dark strings and woodwinds. The ending is really nice and uplifting though and is for me the most inspirational moment of this score. The ending with ‘Sister Hildegarde’ and ‘Farewell’ is revealing though with sad undertones. Ah well, that almost killed my mood for wanting to see this movie. I’ll do anything for Judy Dench so even Desplat can’t change that! Well the ending cue ‘Fairground Carousel’ is up for interpretation. Basically it’s the circus version of Philomena’s theme. I have no idea. Don’t ask. I like it.

Philomena surprised me a bit. I didn’t enjoy this score much for whatever reason in 2013, but this time around I found the listening experience very pleasant. Sure it’s not the emotional rollercoaster the movie seems to be, but the musical language is quite clear to me and there are a couple of themes that’s pretty decent. Desplat does a great job conveying the emotions of the characters as it is quite clear from his cues what kind of scene he is scoring.

3. Birth
7. Reminiscence
8. Airport
9. Landing In USA
11. Mary
16. Anthony’s Story

GD Star Rating
Soundtrack Review: Philomena, 7.7 out of 10 based on 3 ratings


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