Writers: Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope, Martin Sixsmith (book)
Stars: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Mare Winningham, Barbara Jefford, Michelle Fairley
Philomena is one of my favourite films of 2013. In a year filled with many unoriginal and uninspiring stories, Philomena stands out with a truly emotional punch that hit me to the core. The touching screenplay made it such a beautiful film, as well as Judi Dench's stunning turn as a woman looking for the child that was taken away from her some fifty years ago. It really is one of the most moving performances I've ever seen. What surprised me about Philomena most is that it's an exquisitely crafted human interest story, with memorable cinematography and a soul-touching score by the great Alexandre Desplat. While some pan the film for being too "condemning" and not understanding enough of these nuns from 1950s Ireland, I thought Philomena said everything that needed to be said, and moved the audience more than the creators could ever have imagined.
We follow the story of Philomena Lee (Judi Dench), who as a teenager was forced to live in a convent after she fell pregnant. Her son Anthony was given up for adoption against Philomena's will. 50 years later, Philomena breaks her silence and wants to find her long lost son. This takes her on a journey with the shamed journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), who is in need of a story to keep his career going. Together, they trace the steps to find Anthony. This isn't a story about hatred or bitterness. It is a story about a mother's undying love for her son, and the hope of reuniting with him.
I remember reading a review that harshly panned Philomena for being too biased against the nuns that took her child. Well we must have seen an entirely different film, because from what I saw in Philomena, it simply told the truth about what happened. For most of us with intelligence and brief knowledge about the history of the Catholic church, we already know that nuns and the Catholic belief back in the 1950s were very harsh and somewhat inhumane by today's standards. We also know that harsh penance against "sinners" was what the nuns were raised to believe and uphold, and that was acceptable in society back in their day. The movie didn't need to hold the audience's hand and explain this side of the story to us. If it had, the movie would be too long and dumbed down for the ignorant. Like I said, most intelligent people know the nun's side of the story. If telling the truth about Philomena's story is what some would call "condemnation" and "unfair" on the nuns, then that's their loss. No matter which point of view you look at, the nuns committed a terrible wrong to Philomena.
In my opinion, this is the greatest performance of Judi Dench's illustrious career. She was
philomenal I mean, phenomenal! There were many shades to Philomena that I just fell in love with. Her light-hearted, old-soul ways were such a joy to be around (such as when she tries to explain the plot of a silly romance novel to Martin). It was whenever she grieved, or thought about Anthony, that I felt such powerful emotions. Dench was indescribably masterful in her conveyance of love, hope, and despair. She made me cry more than once, because she was completely believable in this role. I would be very happy for Dench to pick up the Oscar for Best Actress this year.
|One of the most harrowing scenes in the film.|