When Philomena (Dench) was a teenager, she fell pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy she named Antony. As this was 1950’s Ireland, what she had done was viewed as a sin against God and she was sent to the infamous Magdalene Sisters who made sure she paid dearly for this sin. When Antony was about 18 months old, he was adopted by a childless couple and sent away without warning. Philomena spent the next 50 years keeping his existence a secret but never giving up hope she would find him.
When her daughter Jane (Martin) discovers she has a long-lost brother, she enlists the help of recently fired journalist Martin Sixsmith (Coogan) to help reunite mother and son, who would now be 50 years old.
Martin pitches the story as a human interest piece to an Editor who will publish the story if there is something to tell. Happy or sad as long as its good. Philomena agrees and the pair trace Antony’s adoption to the United States and so the journey really begins.
Philomena is a devout Catholic who refuses to blame the church for any wrongdoing. She is a lovely, chatty woman who sees the good the good in life and is unfailingly polite to everyone she meets. She often admonishes Martin for his lack of civility. Martin, a seasoned journalist, is a little more jaded and pragmatic. He is angry….and rightly so ….. on her behalf with the Catholic Church.
The search for Antony unearths some very interesting people and connections and as the story continues to reveal itself, Philomena is shown to not be the almost dithering and naive older woman we thought she was but a loving, caring and generous woman with an open heart and soul. It is Martin who takes the most from the experience.
The movie sometimes dips its toes into melodrama but manages to redeem itself with superb acting and the serenely talented Dench. Coogan, with his snappy one liners, knows he cannot compete and thus never tries to overshadow the movie’s real star. He plays second fiddle with finesse, aplomb and grace.
This is a lovely drama. There are no real shocks or surprises but that is the heart of this movie. Philomena embodies every woman who has ever had her baby taken from her not only in Ireland, but the world over. She is not particularly clever or beautiful, not rich or sassy. She is Everywoman. She could be my mother or your mother.
The movie has been nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Picture and Dench has been nominated for Best Actress in a drama. Both are well deserved and I urge you to see this quiet, unassuming little gem.
Love Flick xx
Director : Stephen Frears
Starring : Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Mare Winningham, Peter Hermann, Barbara Jefford, Sean Mahon, Anna Maxwell Martin
Running Time : 98 minutes
Release Date : 26 December, 2013