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‘Philomena’

by Kaori Shoji

The Catholic Church in Ireland has much to answer for in “Philomena,” the real-life story of an Irish woman who was thrown into a convent as a pregnant teenager and forcibly separated from her baby son when he was 3 years old. She spent the next five decades searching for him.

Directed by Stephen Frears, “Philomena” is based on a book by journalist Martin Sixsmith (screenplay co-writer Steve Coogan, in a wonderfully wry performance), who, at the time of meeting Philomena Lee (the always remarkable Judi Dench), is at a crossroads in his life. Disgraced from the BBC’s political desk and estranged from his wife, Sixsmith is at first hesitant (and secretly ashamed) of taking on a human-interest story. But as he listens to her tale, his journalistic instincts are aroused. He takes off with her to the U.S. where the son — who would now be 50 — apparently lives.

It would come as no surprise if, in the third act, Philomena slapped a lawsuit on the Church, which the film suggests may have profited financially from the adoption of her son. But through the years, she instead remains a devout Catholic with an unflappable inner grace. Contradictorily, “Philomena” reminds you of the phrase that faith can indeed move mountains.

  • Sidonie

    Such a sublime film indeed in which Stephen Frears has found the perfect tone to narrate with his customary subtlety the story of an encounter and of a double quest. That of a mother but also that of a journalist whose pseudo certainties are shattered, which, paradoxically enough, makes him stronger by giving him (back) the capacity to be moved by another human being. Judi Dench depicts in a breathtaking way all the complexity and the density of the emotions and thoughts of this luminous Philomena. She achieves this with the grace and the delicacy which are part and parcel of her acting skills and with this extraordinary capacity she possesses to embody the beauty, the frailty and the strength of the human soul.