Written by Heidi Thomas
Based on the play by Alan Bennett
Directed by Richard Eyre
Screening at Palace Electric and Dendy cinemas from April 6
Reviewed by Len Power 22 March 2023
The film, “Allelujah”, starts out as a tender and humorous look at old age in a nursing home threatened with closure by bureaucrats. Based on Alan Bennett’s 2018 play and updated to include a sequence involving the Covid pandemic at the end, the humorous incidents give way to a very serious and unexpected ending. The result is a film that entertains but it’s also jarring in its sinister conclusion.
Director, Richard Eyre, has gathered together quite a cast including Judi Dench, Jennifer Saunders, Julia McKenzie, Russell Tobey, Derek Jacobi and a host of other accomplished character actors recognizable from British films and television.
Actor, Bally Gill, plays the central role of the doctor known as Dr. Valentine because nobody can pronounce his real Indian name. This man loves his work with the elderly in spite of the many trials and tribulations that he faces every day. He strikes up a friendship with the head nurse played against type by Jennifer Saunders. She is a tough, no nonsense health worker who deeply cares for her patients but is under enormous pressure to find more and more beds.
Alan Bennett’s humour and insight into human behaviour comes through in Heidi Thomas’s screenplay. It’s often highly amusing but it’s also carefully grounded in reality. We squirm as much as laugh. The whole cast give excellent performances.
The unsettling ending will surprise and shock audiences. There is a surprising revelation at the hospital under threat of closure and then a tender but chilling sequence set in another hospital some time later during the height of the Covid epidemic. Dr. Valentine, exhausted at the end of his shift in the busy Covid ward, makes an impassioned plea for the National Health Service and health workers that is heart-felt but seems at odds with the tone of the rest of the film.
This is an enjoyable and often amusing film with great performances but be ready for that ending.
Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at https://justpowerwriting.blogspot.com/.