Starring: Judi Dench & Steve Coogan
Time: 98 Minutes
I begrudgingly went to see Philomena about a week ago. I had planned on going to see 12 years a Slave but was talked into going to see Philomena instead. As someone who looks forward to seeing movies I absolutely can’t stand it when I am forced to see a film I didn’t plan on seeing. So I did not go into the theater in the best frame of mind. Another reason I did not want to see Philomena was because I had studied the Irish Diaspora in college and knew the sad story that I would be watching.
I walked into the theater annoyed and not looking forward to what I was going to watch and left the theater knowing that I had just seen one of the best films of 2013.
Philomena is a true story based off the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by Martin Sixsmith. Judi Dench plays the title role and Steve Coogan plays the role of reluctant journalist Martin Sixsmith. Philomena deals with the awful practices of Irish Catholic convents selling unwed mothers’ children to foreign couples in the middle of last century. The woman suffered physical and emotional abuse while at the convents and were forced to work as slave labor during the length of their stay. Their children were then sold without their permission to couples who were not able to have children of their own. Many mothers died at the convents and few ever found out what became of their children.
Philomena tells the story of one mother who attempts to find the son that was taken from her 50 years prior. After decades of searching that has resulted in nothing she comes into contact with a down on his luck journalist (Martin Sixsmith played by Steve Coogan) who reluctantly agrees to help her. The story keeps you on the edge of your seat as Philomena and Sixsmith follow a barely there trail that leads eventually to America and Washington D.C.
This movie is both heart wrenching and inspiring at the same time. Judi Dench completely disappears into the naïve and deeply religious role of Philomena Lee, while Steve Coogan embodies the role of the secular, arrogant, and sarcastic journalist. In a time of big budget blockbusters Philomena shows how a powerful story can be told through dialogue and emotion. The fact that this is a true story makes Philomena even more powerful and a must see.
Despite its depressing plot, Philomena will not leave you sad at the end. Her struggle to find the truth will leave you inspired and glad that you spent that past two hours watching her story. Judi Dench truly shows why she is one of the greatest actors of her generation. This is a must see.
Grade – A (Must See)