Where Alexandre Desplat’s Oscar attention-getter last year was the heavy duty ZERO DARK THIRTY, the most definitely lighter PHILOMENA is likely to get similar notice for its often whimsical, if bittersweet quality. For the track-down here is of the sold son of an Irishwoman forced long ago to give up her kin by decidedly sinful nuns. Philomena’s American road trip with an English journalist has a fun sense of child-like discovery with bells and charmingly driving rhythmic momentum – of course with a notable theme that’s always behind always behind the melodic wheel, as brilliantly taking root in a carousel melody.
As he’s shown in the similarly empathic scores for JULIA AND JULIA and COCO AVANT CHANEL (let alone for PHILOMENA director Stephen Frear’s THE QUEEN, CHERI and TAMARA DREWE), Desplat has a way of conveying a determined, feminine voice. Yet as bouncy as PHILOMENA might be, the score is also full of regret, with some truly dark writing a la Bernard Herrmann, by way of John Barry’s lush strings for a spirit that won’t give into righteous anger at the evils of religious sanctimony. Yet it’s music that’s also about the mystery of the man that Philomena’s boy might have become, even when the facts are apparent. Desplat is at his poignant best in PHILOMENA a score full of touching regret as it is sprightly optimism, making this Frenchman a woman’s composer second to none.
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