Philomena – Review
Directed by Stephen Frears who is noted for his 2006 effort of “The Queen” starring Helen Mirren’s Oscar winning performance, finds the Director telling another unique UK story only this time at the other end of the economic spectrum in the film entitled “Philomena”.
Based on a 2009 book by BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith’s, this film is a true event story of a kindly retired lady named Philomena Lee who in 1955 conceived a boy out of wedlock during a time when her devoutly strong Irish Catholic community shunned with disdain such promiscuity. With her family abandoning her, a young naïve and innocent Philomena was offered some measure of salvation by local Nuns who unbeknownst to Philomena had a strict policy of taking away the children of young girls and selling them for adoption to wealthy Americans.
Starring Judie Dench as Philomena, who is assured of an Oscar Nomination for her performance in January, the film starts out with a somewhat warm and cozy approach to her tale. What ensues over time is a heart wrenching, profoundly poignant, emotional uplifting, life reaffirming and soul stirring film. Frears has crafted a film that at times seems both light and whimsical in nature to something suddenly complex of people, places and events that are about harsh cruelty and unfathomable deceit and human darkness.
Philomena as a film is clever in it’s subtly but quite effective parallel theme of what constitutes human faith. The kind of faith that religious institutions routinely proselytize a need of humans to stringently adhere to doctrines that require abstaining from certain vices and pleasures and the other kind of faith that seemly comes natural to us all with out any prerequisite controls. Especially the kind of faith that comes to all Mothers who have a special sense of the children that they gave birth to; at the point and to the extent they know who their children are innately and a feeling about their overall well being even when they are physical far, far away.
I love Philomena because it crept up on me in a way that once again reminded me why some of the most enjoyable films I have experienced are the ones rooted in simplicity. Dench’s performance is funny and sad; real and tender; stubborn and amusingly kind. And it’s during the brief 93 minutes running time we are ultimately offered something beautiful to watch. It is very well told without it being too layered in details about human tragedy and human redemption.
Dench and her co star Steve Coogan who plays the reporter Sixsmith have a lot of real on screen chemistry and it’s with their combined performances we are privy to a small tale with a huge effect heart that is modest, eloquent, intelligent and abundantly sweet in nature. While it does have its moments of human emotional terrifying evil to contemplate, at its basic core Philomena was a moving pleasure to have experience.