12A, Nationwide

This film is based on a play by Alan Bennett, a story dealing with “our NHS,” which came close to becoming a national religion during the pandemic, and a stellar cast including Jennifer Saunders, Derek Jacobi and Dame Judi Dench.

With all of those ingredients you would think that this film would be a resounding winner, and with Jennifer Saunders playing the lead character one would have expected a few more laughs.

Yet as Allelujah proceeds, it becomes obvious that it is less than the sum of its parts. The cast shines intermittently in some lovely cameo roles, but not all the characters are believable. Nor is the plot always coherent; the ending appears to be tacked on.

The film is not without its entertainment value, but given all its assets, it could have been so much better.

The story is set in a geriatric unit of a small local hospital in an old mining town that is threatened with closure. This coincides with local boy made good, one of the management consultants from London who has recommended the hospital’s closure, coming to visit his ex-miner father who is on the ward. It also coincides with a life-time achievement award being presented to the nurse, played by Jennifer Saunders.

I guess that the subtext of this is how we as a society give with one hand and take away with the other. We idolise the NHS but fail to fund it efficiently or protect it effectively. That concept reminds me of what Jesus says about those who kill the prophets but polish their memorials. If that message gets over to the audience, this film, despite its limitations, might have some value.

John Woods is a writer and Bible teacher based in West Sussex. He is Director of Training at the School of Preachers in Riga, Latvia.