When former journalist Martin Sixsmith is dismissed from the Labour Party in disgrace, he is at a loss as to what do. That changes when a young Irish woman approaches him about a story of her mother, Philomena, who had her son taken away when she was a teenage inmate of a Catholic convent. Martin arranges a magazine assignment about her search for him that eventually leads to America. Along the way, Martin and Philomena discover as much about each other as about her son's fate. Furthermore, both find their basic beliefs challenged. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
The most remarkable thing about Stephen Frears' remarkable film "Philomena" is just how unsentimental and just how funny it actually is. Human Interest stories, the phrase Martin Sixsmith, (played superbly here by Steve Coogan), uses to describe exactly what it is he is doing in taking on the case of Philomena Lee, usually leave me cold for the very reasons Sixsmith describes in the film. But this is no ordinary 'human interest' story but a study of goodness triumphing over evil in a very real sense for surely Philomena Lee, as portrayed here, is a truly good person and the system she found herself fighting, though hardly by choice, namely the Catholic Church in Ireland, is in this instance anyway, evil. It's a heart-wrenching story but told with a good deal of natural humour and a distinct lack of lachrymation, (though you would need to have a heart of stone or no heart at all not to be moved to tears). The director is Stephen Frears who almost takes a back seat and lets the tale tell itself. The script is by Coogan and Jeff Pope and it beautifully encapsulates the book that Sixsmith wrote about Philomena Lee's search for the son who was taken away from her by Irish nuns and sold to an American couple simply because she had given birth out of wedlock at a time when such 'sins' were considered almost unforgivable. But Philomena never displays bitterness nor does she feel hatred. It simply isn't in her nature and in the end it is she who forgives rather than feel the need to ask for forgiveness. All the performances are first-rate and in the title role Judi Dench is simply phenomenal. This could so easily have become a display of actorly histrionics but Dench underplays almost to the point of invisibility. We certainly never see Dench up there on the screen but the incredible woman she is playing. Her performance is heart-breaking but then so is the whole film. Oscars are just not good enough.
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