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Philomena by Alexandre Desplat (Review)

posted Jan 8, 2014, 5:22 PM by Kaya Savas

In 2011 Alexander Desplat composed 9 scores, he composed 9 scores in 2012 and 6 scores in 2013. Philomena was his only English feature as he decided to stay focused with films in his native country of France. The man is a very high in-demand composer, and rightfully so. He’s one of the best. His music is extraordinary at times, and his emotional range is pretty impressive. Philomena sees Desplat and director Stephen Frears working together for the fourth time. Philomena is quite a unique score that incorporates waltzes, a whimsical sense and lots of melodic hooks to craft some engaging drama.

The story follows a weary reporter who discovers a mother searching for her long lost son from whom she was separated from when she gave birth is a drama right in Desplat’s range. The score has a great little central motif plus lots of other melodies throughout. I think that the fact that this score is something that Desplat could compose in his sleep may also be the reason why it feels just a tad uninspired. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, but felt like the score didn’t delve too much into the characters. While there are some slight emotional builds, it felt more like Desplat was running in place at some points. The waltzy nature of the score does create a very nice flow and a pacing that keeps you engaged, minus the few spots of “running in place”. Overall, it’s a very safe and expected score from Desplat. With a theme that is similar to his work on Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close it has all the right attractions, but once you’re into it you want the music to try something a little more to keep you attracted.

Philomena is a more than decent score from one of the great working auteurs even if it feels a tad uninspired. The waltz structure of it all keeps the pacing and keeps it interesting, but it does run over the same ground repeatedly. The emotions are there simmering on low, but the score could have done much more maybe with a tad bit more variation. It’s still very enjoyable, but nowhere near the level of recent Desplat masterpieces like Moonrise Kingdom.