Verdict: Allelujah is a pleasant enough watch, but the characters are too slight and the comedy leaves much to be desired.

  • Judi Dench, Jennifer Saunders, Russell Tovey
  • March 17th 2023
  • Richard Eyre

Jennifer Saunders’s latest movie is set in the geriatric ward of a small hospital facing the threat of closure.

Allelujah, the latest film by Richard Eyre, features a who’s who of British acting talent.

Starring Jennifer Saunders, Judi Dench and Bally Gill, the comedy-drama, based on the 2018 play of the same name by Alan Bennett, is set in the geriatric ward at The Bethlehem, a small hospital in Wakefield, Yorkshire.

The staff and patients are being filmed by a crew to help drum up support for The Beth, which is under threat of closure.

If you’re expecting this movie to be a stuffy comedy about old people being rude or cranky, you wouldn’t be too far off the mark.

But, thankfully, there is more to it than that – a surprising twist near the end elevates the story and makes it far more interesting, even if it does undermine the film’s pro-NHS message.

Allelujah is very vocal in its support for the NHS and why small community hospitals like The Beth are worth saving.

Bennett’s play has also been given a modern update at the end with a section set during the pandemic, a time when the public seemed to appreciate healthcare workers more than ever.

The pro-NHS messaging gets rather heavy-handed though, particularly in a serious fourth-wall-breaking moment that is very jarring and takes you out of the movie.

It was an odd choice, but the film can be forgiven for its obviousness because the work of the NHS deserves to be raved about.

The film hops around between its characters, of which there are many, so you never get to know anyone particularly well and they mostly seem quite stereotypical.

Russell Tovey is lumbered with the story’s most infuriating character. Colin works for the Department of Health and is dead-set on shutting down The Beth, yet when he pays the facility a visit to see his father Joe (David Bradley), he is transformed from this standoffish bureaucrat to a passionate defender of it. This change felt too quick, unearned and unbelievable.

But his co-stars make up for this. In particular, Saunders shines at the no-nonsense Sister Gilpin, Dench is adorable as the sweet, quiet Mary and Gill will warm your heart as the saintly Dr Valentine.

Allelujah is a pleasant enough watch, but the characters are too slight and the comedy leaves much to be desired.

In cinemas from Friday 17th March.

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