Philomena (12A)

Directed by Stephen Frears
Adapted from the book 'The Lost Child Of Philomena Lee'
On general release from November 1st 2013

Reviewed by Darren Guy

Falling pregnant as a teenager in Ireland in 1952, young Philomena Lee (Sophia Kennedy Clark) is sent to the convent of Roscrea in Ireland to be 'looked after' as a 'fallen woman' by nuns. 50 years later the elderly Philomena (Judi Dench) is trying to come to terms with a painful secret she has kept from her family. Her son, who is now fifty-years-old, was sold by the nuns when he was a toddler to a wealthy American couple. Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), once a BBC correspondent, then one of Tony Blair's advisers, before he was 'resigned' by the Labour party. Seeing ahead of him a failing career, he decides to try his hand at making money by writing a human interest story. This is how Sixsmith and Philomena first met each other. Philomena, a kind, gentle, accepting woman hooks up with the cynical Sixsmith, looking to use her story to revive his fortunes. The salt of the earth working-class Philomena is thrown in with the privileged Oxford educated atheist Sicksmith. Their journey takes them on a road trip through Ireland and then America in the search of Philomena's son. On this journey Sixsmith begins to discover his humanity.

Philomena is a very moving and, in part, funny film, hitting back at the ruthless exploitation and inhumanity of the Catholic church and the media. I'm not sure how fitted to the part Judy Dench is, but her Irish accent is convincing to me. Coogan is excellent throughout, carefully aware that his story is only secondary to Philomena's. The conflict between Philomena and the stuffy Sixsmith is excellent. As the warm hearted, forgiving nature of Philomena slowly seeps into the heart of cynical uptight money eyed journalist Sixsmith.

The film maintains attention and tension throughout with its twists and turns and, just when it seems to have hit its peak, it slowly moves down and up again, with a splendid backdrop of rural Ireland and America.

The film is one of director Stephen Frear's best, on par with 'Dirty Pretty Things'. And a must see for people who do or don't like a little cry.

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