Release Date – 17th March 2023, Cert – 12, Run-time – 1 hour 39 minutes, Director – Richard Eyre
A geriatric ward in a small Yorkshire hospital is threatened with closure, despite the personal connection that the government inspector (Russell Tovey) has with the place.
Perhaps much like some of the characters in the film it’s easy to dismiss Allelujah from its opening stages. It comes across as a generally harmless but enjoyable British comedy with a familiar cast of famous faces. However, as things develop there are a number of truly big surprises along the way as the future of a geriatric ward is put into further questioning.
The ward in question is known as The Beth, part of a small Yorkshire hospital it’s threatened with closure especially when a government inspector (Russell Tovey) starts to look around. However Tovey’s Colin has a personal connection to the place in that his father Joe (David Bradley) is currently a resident of the ward. He, alongside the various other faces staying until they can be sent back to respective homes, is largely tended to by leader of the ward Sister Gilpin (Jennifer Saunders). After multiple years of hard, exhausting work her fellow doctors and nurses, alongside the current patients, are preparing to celebrate, particularly with the presentation of an award – “my service has been admired, there’s no need for the purchase of party novelties” she insists.
Her main priority is continuing to fight “for our right to care”. It’s a point that comes through not just her work but also that of Bally Gill’s Dr Valentine – who we see caringly tending to many of the patients on the ward. Valentine makes sure to build up relationships with those he’s looking after, giving us another glimpse into the ward outside of the ‘who’s got it the worst’ conversations and general bickering. It’s through this that much of the humour comes through, Derek Jacobi in particular is a highlight in this respect and certainly gets a fair deal of focus. It’s evident that there are certainly characters and strands which aren’t quite as prominent as others – even Judi Dench gets a rather minimal, yet undeniably key, role here. However, for what we do get, before things eventually come together, there’s a rather enjoyable piece of work here.
One which, as mentioned, takes a number of highly unexpected turns. Instead of taking you out of the film they instead further hook your interest and bring you along for the remainder of the run-time. Things may lean more towards the dramatic than they had before though, but there’s no denying the intrigue as to how things are going to develop with the various revelations and twists which crop up. All leading to a finale which certainly goes for the emotional punch with a true force. While it remains to be seen how well certain aspects of the film will age (it’s basis and politics are very clearly worn throughout, alongside an undeniably clear pro-NHS stance) as a whole it’s, for now, a rather enjoyable affair which may start off having you thinking you know what it’ll be like and where it’ll go before swerving rather effectively to your greater engagement and interest.
Perhaps, because of the build-up, the film won’t feel like a product of 2021/2 – the film itself is based on Alan Bennett’s 2018 play of the same name after all – as much as it currently might do so close to the time. Regardless, for what it does do there’s more to like and enjoy about Allelujah than there initially might seem. Bringing you into The Beth with the various different faces and characters present who, like the film, have a lot more to show and say than might initially appear to be the case.
While you may settle into the familiarity and ‘you know what you’re going to get’ of Allelujah there’s no denying the dramatic twists and surprises it manages to bring in to further hook your engagement in the later stages. A funny, well-put-together piece of work pushed by the pride that it has in itself.