Plenty of stars but NHS tribute 'Allelujah' falls a bit short
Film review: Allelujah (12A) – seen at The Light Cinema, Wisbech
Starring: Bally Gill, Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, Jennifer Saunders, David Bradley and Russell Tovey
Running time: 1hr 39 mins Director: Richard Eyre
I don’t know quite what I was expecting from this film... but it was certainly a lot more than it delivered.
A kind of love letter to the NHS, its slow and gentle plot never seemed to really be going anywhere. And when it did, it was certainly shocking but threw the rest of the movie off kilter.
Based on an Alan Bennett play about a geriatric ward in a small Yorkshire hospital threatened with closure, the film certainly isn’t short of stars.
But the story just didn’t really move me. Bethlehem Hospital (The Beth) is fighting Government moves to close it, while the head of its geriatric ward – Nurse Galpin (Jennifer Saunders) – is about to receive a top award.
While a local film crew is present putting a piece together about the closure threats, we meet the various geriatric ward patients, one of whom is proud former pitman Joe Colman, played by David Bradley (Ricky Gervais’ dad in Afterlife).
Joe’s son Colin, who is also the Government civil servant who has recommended the closure, visits his dad. Will his views change? It’s all a bit too obvious for me.
Jennifer Saunders gives an assured performance as Nurse Galpin, a strict but dedicated woman obsessed with patients keeping their beds dry.
Judi Dench is as solid as she always is playing patient Mary Moss. There’s even an impressive performance from the legendary Derek Jacobi as another of the patients, Ambrose.
There are a few decent laughs too and the story is certainly a poignant one, if the delivery is somewhat akin to breaking a walnut with a sledgehammer.
And the most moving, powerful part of the film comes right at the end through Dr Valentine (Bally Gill), who bookends the
story with an introduction and an epilogue.
The latter is a passionate, spoken tribute to the NHS and all those who work in it. I agreed with every word, but came away thinking this film didn’t do that wonderful service full justice.
By Jeremy Ransome