Philomena appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a perfectly acceptable presentation.
At times the movie went with a somewhat airy feel, especially during flashbacks, and that could affect sharpness. Nonetheless, overall definition seemed good, with only a little softness along the way. I noticed no jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes failed to appear. Print flaws remained absent, though the flashbacks offered a lot of stylized grain.
Like many modern films, Philomena opted for a fairly orange and teal palette. That seemed like an odd choice for a movie like this – usually action flicks go for those overtones – but the hues seemed fine within those choices. Blacks were dark and tight, and shadows showed appropriate delineation. I felt pleased with the image.
Should one expect a lot of sizzle from the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack? Nope – it remained low-key, just as one would expect for a character drama such as this. Effects tended toward general atmosphere and lacked any scenes to add real pizzazz; the various speakers placed us in different settings well enough but didn’t impress. Music showed good stereo spread.
Audio quality was solid. Effects came across as accurate and concise, and speech seemed natural and crisp. Music was lush and full as well. Nothing here stood out as memorable, but the track fit the story.
With that we head to the disc’s extras and discover an audio commentary with actor/writer Steve Coogan and writer Jeff Pope. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion of story/character areas, the script and the source material, themes, cast and performances, and a few other filmmaking topics.
It comes as no surprise that screenplay subjects dominate this piece, and those notes give us some good information. However, don’t expect a ton of depth, especially since we don’t find out a lot to compare fact to the movie’s fiction. Still, the track moves in a breezy way and ends up as a reasonably useful listen.
Three featurettes ensue. A Conversation with Judi Dench lasts eight minutes, 54 seconds and includes the actor’s thoughts on what led her to her career and some early experiences, getting into movies and other thoughts. We don’t learn anything fascinating but we get a pleasant chat.
For background info, we go to The Real Philomena Lee. In this two-minute, 47-second piece, we hear from Dench, Coogan, director Stephen Frears, actor Sophie Kennedy Clark, the real-life Philomena Lee and her daughter Jane Libberton. The reel tells us little of substance; it’s nice to see Lee but this ends up as a glorified trailer.
Finally, we find a Q&A with Steve Coogan. It runs 24 minutes, 17 seconds and places Coogan at a December 2013 Guild screening. He discusses the project’s origins and development, research and adapting the source book, story/character areas, cast and crew, liberties and some aspects of the shoot. Some of the material feels redundant after the commentary, but Coogan remains engaging and likable enough to make this an enjoyable piece.
The disc opens with promos for The Butler and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. No trailer for Philomena shows up here.
Between its plodding narrative and its heavy-handed moralizing, I can’t find much to like in Philomena. While its actors do fine in their roles, they can’t overcome the film’s basic flaws. The Blu-ray offers good picture and audio along with a smattering of informative supplements. Chalk up Philomena as a disappointment.