Saturday, January 25, 2014


I put off seeing this movie because I was afraid it'd break my heart. I was right. It did. The story is sad enough, but the performance by the incomparable Judi Dench as the title character is what did it.

You probably already know its about an Irish mother's search for the son that was taken from her by nuns fifty years before. The behavior of some of the nuns is portrayed as callous, at best, pure evil, at worst.

The story, or different takes on it—poor Irish girls getting pregnant at a young age and having their babies taken to be put up for adoption while the girls themselves are forced to work for the nuns, etc.—has been told in a few films for theaters and TV since the facts began to become known over a decade ago.

But the focus in PHILOMENA is on one single girl, now an old woman, and the efforts of a British journalist to uncover the story of her lost son. The screenplay creates a conflict by having their personalities, class, age, education, etc. clash, usually to comic effect.

But Steve Coogan is a pretty good match for Dench and so it works, or at least did for me. Although it might have been a little too contrived if the flick just depended on them, despite Stephen Frears usual great directing, but fortunately the actress who plays Philomena as a young girl, Sophie Kennedy Clark, is so good in the flashbacks that she grounds the story in a reality that cannot be denied.

Well worth seeing.

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