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| 11 January 2014

Directed by Stephen Frears
Starring Steve Coogan, Judi Dench
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Philomena movie poster

Based on a true story, Philomena follows Judi Dench’s titular character as she embarks on a journey to find the son who was taken from her as a teen almost 50 years hence.

A scathing indictment of the Catholic church and all it’s hypocrisy, the movie sees Philomena – innocent in the ways of love – seduced and made pregnant, then locked up and treated as little more than a slave at an Irish convent.

Forced to give birth without any pain relief (“the pain is her penance now”) and allowed only an hour with her child per day, Philomena is devastated when her son is adopted to a rich American couple for a hefty “donation”.

Somehow, despite this emotional abuse, she retains her faith and is a delightfully dotty Gran by the time Steve Coogan’s Martin Sixsmith, a disgraced journalist who reluctantly attempts to pursue the story, whisks her off to America to find her son and his redemption.

Sixsmith, in a mild depression of his own and leaning heavily on jaded cynicism, treats Philomena with impatient disdain initially, but they bond slowly and despite their massive differences as they discover Michael’s story and the full extent of the betrayal of them both (and many others) by the church.

Sixsmith is outraged by the church, and more so by Philomena’s acceptance and forgiveness, and struggles to see how she can let go of her rightful outrage, as will many in the audience. But the experience, and the understanding that Michael, too, had tried to find her, gives Philomena closure and a peace that she had lacked all her life.

Dench is note perfect as always, and Coogan’s performance also shines, making Philomena a wonderful story about a horrible situation, and a thought-provoking expose that should shed much-needed light on just some of the atrocities committed in the name of God.

Category: Movie & Theatre Reviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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