Allelujah Review

Tuesday 21 March 2023

Plot: The story of a geriatric ward in a small Yorkshire hospital threatened with closure.

Film: Allelujah

Director: Richard Eyre

Writers: Heidi Thomas, Alan Bennett

Starring: Jennifer Saunders, Bally Gill, Russell Tovey, Judi Dench

Set in a geriatric ward of the Bethlehem hospital, referred to by the locals of Wakefield as ‘The Beth’, Allelujah follows the patients and doctors as they fight to save the hospital in a conservative run country. Colin (Russell Tovey), a consultant to the Minister of Health, has been sent to assess the hospital for closure, while his father Joe (David Bradley) as moved in as a patient. As a film it serves as a love letter to the NHS and highlights through a very dramatic plot twist, why it’s important that we continue to fund such an important aspect of British life, as the consequences of limited resources can be astonishing.

The staff of the hospital are made up of Sister Gilpin (Jennifer Saunders) who runs an extremely tight ship, the much more sympathetic Nurse Pinkney (Jesse Akele) and Dr Valentine (Bally Gill) who values his patients over profits, a point he really drives home at the end of the film. The patients include a whole host of British talent, but most notably is the character Mary, (Judi Dench) who is tasked with filming her day for a camera crew that has turned up to film the charity efforts to save the Beth, but in doing so uncovers more than she meant to.  

I will say that for the most part, Judi Dench was underused but the character she was playing was the shy, quiet ex-librarian, which is why she was able to expose the truths that she did. Stealing spotlight for the majority of the film was Russell Tovey, who as a gay man from a Northern town, is not the obvious choice for an employee of a conservative politician, but his struggle to repair the relationship between himself and his father, while grappling with his own identity in the world, makes an already emotional story even more realistic. 

What starts as a very British comedy becomes a much more hard-hitting drama with a twist and ending that will leave you speechless, expect for any conservative voters in the audience, they will likely have too much to say. Anything political these days is met with hostility, but Allelujah made me smile and shed tears. I think with the incredibly mixed response to this film that I have seen on social media, you can tell this film struck a nerve and therefore did its job.

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