Film Review: PHILOMENA

Directed by Stephen Frears
Written by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
Starring: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan

Philomena is the story of an Irish woman (Dench), forced to give her baby up by an order of Catholic nuns in the fifties, and her lifelong search to find the child. The barriers to this information do not come down until she enlists the reluctant help of a disgraced journalist (Coogan). At first the human interest angle of Philomena’s story puts him off, but he begins to see elements of her story that both interest and incite him.

Their search brings them to the U.S. Most of the babies put up for adoption by this order came to Irish families in the U.S. And here they learn the fate of Philomena’s, Anthony. And coming full circle, the two return to Ireland to confront the sisters with full knowledge of what took place those many years ago.

This story is less predictable and saccharine than it sounds here. Dench and Coogan make a good team, not allowing the sadder elements to derail the forward motion of the story. There are spots of humor that leaven what could be a movie to match the horror of THE MAGDALENE SISTERS of a few years ago (2002).

The movie is based on the reporter’s book (THE LOST CHILD OF PHILOMENA LEE by Martin Sexsmith). Perhaps I will get up enough courage to read his account. A fine movie with two good performances.

Patti Abbott