Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Cast: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan
Director: Stephen Frears
Happy New Year everyone! Here is my first movie of 2014, Philomena, and it was a great way to kick off my year.
Philomena tells the true story of Philomena Lee, who gave birth to a son during her teenage years in 1950s Ireland. Her family was ashamed and sent the young mother and baby to a convent, and from there the nuns took the baby and sold him into adoption in America. 50 years later Philomena teams up with a journalist to locate her son.
The movie poster accurately describes the two main characters as ‘unlikely companions’. Philomena (Dench) is a good-natured woman and she is still deeply religious even after the nuns sold her child during her stay at the convent. Martin Sixsmith (Coogan), a brash, straight-forward journalist, joins Philomena in the search for her son Anthony. It turns out Martin is a very vocal atheist, and he spends a lot of time bashing the Catholic Church. There’s even a couple of scenes where he travels to the convent where Philomena lived and makes some rude comments to the nuns about their religious beliefs regarding fornication, sin, and punishment.
After watching this movie I learned Steve Coogan co-wrote the adapted screenplay. To be fair, I haven’t read the book by the real Martin Sixsmith so I’m not sure how he personally feels about Catholicism, but I felt Coogan inserted his own personal beliefs in this movie and took some of the power away from Philomena’s story. Sometimes I felt this movie was shown in two different viewpoints: Martin’s view of how people should act and treat others, and Philomena’s more tolerant view that people should live in a way that brings them peace.
Despite my gripe with Martin, I enjoyed this movie as a whole. The closeness that developed between Philomena and Martin was very believable, especially after watching them travel from their hometown of London, and then to Ireland where the convent is located, and finally to the U.S. where Anthony was raised.
Judi Dench gives an admirable performance as a woman who is inspiring rather than pitiful and weepy or angry and bitter. She portrays Philomena with multiple layers and a wide variety of emotions, which you would expect from a woman who enjoyed her teenage sexual encounter even though it led to her being an unwed mother. She is still religious even though the convent sold her child. And she still hopes to hug a son that she hasn’t seen in 50 years. Make sure you bring a tissue to use in the second half of the movie.
Did you see Philomena? Let me know what you thought about it!