02 Jan

Philomena Lee (played by Sophie Kennedy Clark) is a good Catholic girl. In 1952, she’s a young teenager and lives a happy, simple life in Roscrea in Ireland. One day she gives in to the “sins of the flesh” and ends up a girl “in trouble” – she is left in the care of the nuns at the local convent. Her son, Anthony, is born and she stays at the convent for the next five years to pay her debt of gratitude to the nuns who took her in. Fifty years later, Philomena (now by Judi Dench) attends her local church to light a candle – she is struck by melancholy as this day is Anthony’s fiftieth birthday – but she hasn’t seen him for several decades and doesn’t speak of him at all. When she gets home, her daughter Mary (by Mare Winningham) asks if she is okay and she learns of Philomena’s painful past. Soon after, Mary comes in contact with a British journalist, Martin Sixsmith (by Steve Coogan), who is currently between assignments. Mary asks for Martin’s help to try to piece together Philomenas’ story and perhaps find Anthony. So he begins to unravel the story of the young mother and her long search for the child she was separated from at the Irish convent so many years before …

This is a wonderful movie. To know that it is based on a true story makes it even more compelling. The performances are marvellous – Judi Dench is captivating as Philomena Lee, she takes the viewer along with her through the emotions she experiences in this drama – curiosity, delight, fear, happiness, guilt, anger and sorrow. It is honest and very good. Steve Coogan is equally as strong as Martin Sixsmith. The content regarding the actions of the Catholic Church towards teenage mothers and their babies during the 1950’s is topical and somewhat controversial, which come people may find confronting or offensive. Philomena Lee’s sad tale is incredible – her blind faith in God and her religion has somehow provided her a crutch, to save her from trying to explain the utter heartbreak of her experiences. However, she has led a life with broad experiences and she’s no doormat – which is expertly revealed as the drama unfolds. She won’t be protected from real life and this brings a good counterpoint to the story. Steve Coogan’s character balances her very well – both Philomena and Martin have clear human weaknesses, but their strengths shine through – they are great together. Every scene is marvellous. Stephen Frears’ work is exemplary – as a viewer, I found myself totally captured by this movie, and by Philomena. The cinematography presents her beautifully. It is based on Sixsmith’s 2009 book “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee” and it’s great. In the upcoming 2014 Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards, Judi Dench has been nominated as most Outstanding/Best Actress, the movie has been nominated for Best Motion Picture and the screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope has been nominated for an award also. Very well deserved.

Made in 2013.  Directed by Stephen Frears.

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Posted by on January 2, 2014 in Movies


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