Friday, April 4, 2014

PHILOMENA

Judi Dench, Steve Coogan

"These Two Unlikely Companions are on a 
Journey to Find her Long Lost Son"


This is a true story based on the 2009 investigative book "The Lost Child of Philomena Lee" by BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith. He is portrayed by Steve Coogan in a meaty role that truly exposes his raw talent with some appropriate comedic flair. 

Philomena (Judi Dench) seeks his help in tracing her son whom she gave up for adoption in the 1960s. Actually, she was forced by the nuns who run a home for unwed mothers to sign a waiver. This document states she will not be privy to any information about his whereabouts once he is adopted.    Years later, hounded by her conscience and her guilt she perseveres in finding her son and her only hope is to channel it through Martin Sixsmith.  Perfect timing as he has been disgraced and is willing to take on a human interest story to salvage his reputation.

A journey that takes them from the Irish convent (where her toddler son grew up) and all the way to America where her son lived upon his adoption by an American couple.   It isn't an easy journey as they both face upheavals and challenges along the way.  Such as the refusal of the convent to share any information to hitting a blank wall once they reach America.

Interspersed with flashback throughout the film, we get to see Philomena as a young woman with child. Her difficult circumstances as her Catholic upbringing reigns supreme. A child out of wedlock was a big taboo back in the 1960s in predominantly Catholic Ireland.  As a Catholic, it was uncomfortable for me to watch the nuns strict adherence to the doctrines of the Church.  Although, I admit it is no secret that the Church has committed way too many deplorable acts that truly counteracts their main purpose.  It is a very touchy subject to broach and one I am not willing to comment on in this review.

The versatile performances from the two lead actors as unlikely 'partners' in a daunting quest are brilliant. Their repertoire is spot on even as their characters are polar opposites of each other. It was interesting to watch the very different reactions of their characters to the numerous hurdles they faced in their hunt for her son. Although their search leads to a sad ending, the fact that they finally find a fitting closure to her long anguishing tale is worth all the hardships they encounter. 

"Philomena" is a tale of anguish, guilt, redemption and forgiveness. It had a tendency to drag on but surely the poignant characterization of Philomena and Sixsmith by Steve Coogan and Dame Judi Dench is enough to elevate this sad yet uplifting story to a movie worth watching.

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