Saturday, 15 December 2018

Political hack and his unlikely buddy

REMEMBER Martin Sixsmith? Chances are it’s one of those names that ring a bell, but you can’t quite place the

REMEMBER Martin Sixsmith? Chances are it’s one of those names that ring a bell, but you can’t quite place the face.

Sixsmith was a journalist-turned-spin doctor who was working for the Department for Transport under Blair’s government when his grand moment of fame — or rather infamy — arrived. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks he sent an email to two politicians warning them not to “bury more bad news”. Unfortunately, the email was leaked to the press and Sixsmith became the fall guy.

None of this has much to do with this week’s new release Philomena, but it’s an interesting bit of back-story. Because after his fall from grace Sixsmith went on to write novels, and was then persuaded to write up the true life story of a woman whose illegitimate child was swooped on at birth by nuns at a Magdalene home in Ireland and offered up for adoption. He accompanies the bereft mother on a trip to Ireland to trace the long-lost child.

“I don’t do human interest stories,” says Sixsmith (played by Steve Coogan) when he is first approached to interview her.

No doubt, if he hadn’t been made the political fall guy and found himself kicking his heels he would never have condescended to such a story, yet part of the appeal of this movie is the way a hard-nosed hack, used to moving in the upper echelons of Westminster, finds himself passionately involved in “women’s stuff”.

We are used to seeing Coogan playing the fool as Alan Partridge, but this time he’s playing a deadly serious role, albeit smattered with wit. Coogan also co-wrote the script and co-produced, and was cognisant of the fact that it could have been so very depressing. The dialogue is smattered with a light dusting of the Coogan touch, accordingly.

Dame Judi, who plays Philomena, has nothing but praise for her co-star in this buddie movie.

“He’s a stand-up comedian, and I was outraged that he was so good,” she said. “I can’t do what he does, but he can do what I do.”

Philomena opens at the Regal Picturehouse tonight.

Film: Philomena

Certificate: (12A)

Director: Stephen Frears

Starring: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan

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