Review: Philomena (OST) – Alexandre Desplat

Tekst: Gerianne Meijer

philomena-ost-812dc7d12142d46361c52f2f6d26ac90-500x500-100-cropPhilomena is a movie about a woman who had to give up her bastard child at an early age and is now trying to get in touch with him. It is a charming and endearing film starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan. The soundtrack is provided by composer Alexandre Desplat, who is known for his work on The King’s Speech, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and many other well-known movie titles. His soundtrack for Philomena got him a nomination for an academy award (again), so I thought I would check it out.

The first track ‘Philomena’ is sweet, innocent and laden with the sounds of the fair where her story began. The strings are swirling, but near the end it gets a little bit heavier and darker, so we get a sense of where the story is going. It ends on a happier note though and follow up ‘Martin’ is in contrast more complex and full. It is based on a character that has a darker outlook on life. The happy notes are there too which makes it a nice follow up to the first track.

‘Birth’ takes us back in time and has a sense of urgency in it, the music is heavy with emotion, as befits the scene. A very nice track that envelops you in the tension of the moment. ‘Laundry’ continues this urgent tone with even more fervor. You get the sense that there is something bad looming which can be heard in ‘Adoption’. With lots of strings and a melancholy piano this is a sad track, but beautiful. ‘Drives to Roscrea’ is very different. It has more upbeat strings and has hints of Irish folk in it, however the ending is more subdued entering into ‘Reminiscence’. The high, sweet notes we know so well by now are present here with low strings tying it together. ‘Airport’ is again more upbeat, reminding us of the first tracks, but more complex and interwoven.

After all this ‘Landing in the Usa’ is filled with anticipation, made palpable by the strings. It ends rather abruptly though, which is a shame. ‘Discovering Michael’ is more sad and has really low depressed tones, but ends more upbeat with a nice guitar and strings. ‘Mary’ continues this more lively tone and again uses the swirling sound we’ve heard from the beginning that is Philomena’s theme. ‘Confession’ starts out rather uneventful, but picks up the pace later on and gets more dramatic. It also features a rather interesting flute. ‘Memories’ gives us the theme again, of course combined with the fair sounds as the main character is remembering that time. It is rather short though.

‘No thought of Ireland’ is again one of those dramatic in between songs, but not as good as the earlier ones. ‘Quiet Time, to Pete’s’ is a calmer variety on the theme and an interesting change. It features some low drums and a change of pace where a guitar leads. ‘Anthony’s Story’ starts with the swirling strings and has a happy, content tone to it. Later on it changes to envelop the more dramatic side of his story, but this fits nicely and the strings swell up to avail.

The second last track ‘Sister Hildegarde’ is rather uneventful, but is a calm point before ‘Farewell’. This track ties everything together in a way that is not over the top, but builds up nicely. It also features a nicely inserted guitar, but I would have liked the ending of this track to have more oomph. The last track is the aptly titled ‘Fairground Carousel’ and is a bit too harsh for my ears. But that could just be because I have a deep rooted revulsion of street organs. However it is not the satisfying ending I would have liked.

This soundtrack by Alexandre Desplat is rather like the main character of the movie. Never over the top, kind and rather, well, plain. In that sense it is a very good soundtrack, as it fits the story well. It starts of better then it ends though and I’m not sure I can listen to it again and again as the swirling street organ like sound is already starting to get annoying. As an accompaniment for the movie it is rather well done, but as a standalone soundtrack it doesn’t offer much to come back to. Enjoy this while watching and you will not regret it.

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