The movie Philomena - tender, touching & terrific

The incomparable Judy Dench stars in the new new movie “Philomena”, the real life story of an unwed Irish teenager who, in the early fifties, becomes pregnant, gives birth to a son at the convent in Roscrea but is then forced to give him up for adoption. The major surprise is that such a heart wrenching story of faith and determination can eventually bring peace and satisfaction. And it really happened.

“Philomena” is based on the non-fiction Book, “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee” by Martin Sixsmith played in the film by Steve Googan. He’s just lost his job as a Labor government advisor and is introduced to Philomena but really has little interest in her mid-life decision to try and find the son she gave up some fifty years ago. But he needs the work and his editor suggest he give it a try. Slowly, Martin becomes fascinated by how the young  boy just disappeared. All the records of his time at the convent were destroyed in a mysterious fire, but he finds out that many of the children were actually sold to adoptive parents in the United Sates.

Sixsmith has a lot of contacts in the U.S. and he and Philomena set off on a flight that brings some welcome moments of humor to an increasingly disturbing story. This working class ex-nurse is squired about New York and Washington  by a sophisticated journalist whose knows how to use expense accounts and insider contacts. Soon, the innocent and bewildered Phliomena is forced to deal with her deeply ingrained faith and and purpose in life. The more she finds out about here son, the more difficult it is for her to continue the search.

There are long moments in this film when all we see are closeups of Judi Dench.  Her ability to convey the haunting images that she must confront are lasting tributes to her ability as an actress. When she cries, you will, too. When, as Philomena,  she is finally able to forgive the past and accept the future, you will happily join her.

Judi Dench &  Steve Coogan in Ireland

Judi Dench & Steve Coogan in Ireland

Not only does “Philomena”  benefit from the great performances by Dench and Coogan, but director Stephen Frears who gave us “My Beautiful Laudrette” and “The Queen” wisely uses a delicate touch and cinematographer Robbie Ryan shoots the Irish countryside as well as USA landmarks with marvelous skill.

“Philomena” is a tender, touching movie that you will think about for some time after leaving the theatre,


Rating “PG” for some language, thematic elements and sexual references

Time: 138 minutes

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