2014-03-28 11:13
What it's about:

Philomena Lee is mother to a boy conceived out of wedlock—something of which her Irish-Catholic community didn’t have the highest opinion—and given away for adoption in the United States. In following Church doctrine, she was forced to sign a contract that wouldn’t allow for any sort of inquiry into the son’s whereabouts.

After starting a family years later in England and, for the most part, moving on with her life, Lee meets Martin Sixsmith, a BBC reporter with whom she decides to seek out her long-lost son.

What we thought:

After watching the sad tale of forced adoption in Philomena, it is hard to believe that it actually happened. Although Hollywoodised with a few fictional scenes here and there, the heart of the real Philomena Lee was still true in the story, pumping through the performances of Judi Dench and Steve Coogan.

At first glance, Philomena might look like it is taking a good bash at Catholics in Ireland and their unjust punishment of unwed mothers, but surprisingly this movie focuses more on holding on to faith and forgiving the worst of the worst. A sad and tragic story yes, but the little injections of humour and silliness of an older woman makes it bearable enough that you actually end up enjoying it.

And Judi Dench nails this balance left right and center. Coogan was good, but he had to almost run a marathon to keep up with her brilliance. When he loses his cool with an elderly nun though, he proves he is worthy of playing alongside the acting goddess that is Dench.

Compared to her ruthless Agent M character from the James Bond series, it is hard to picture her as a soft-hearted old woman but she does it.

Not only is does the movie have a high entertainment value, it also helps promote a good cause. The real Philomena Lee and her daughter have started a project to open up adoption files in Ireland and help adoptees find their biological parents. Since the movie hit circuits the project has gotten immeasurable publicity and although it has been attacked for its negative view of Catholic nuns, you can’t deny the good it will do for the many others that faced the same trauma as Philomena.

Battling between his lack of faith and his editor, Coogan’s journalist comes off as a complete asshole, as sometimes is excited over what would make a great story, even that bit of detail is extremely tragic. It is hard to miss the critique it makes on journalism at large and reminds us that there are real humans behind every ‘human-interest’ story in the media.

Although it is an emotionally draining movie as you juggle between laughing heartily and bawling your eyes out, Philomena is a well thought out plot line that tackles the stigma associated with unwed mothers and their (sometimes forced) adoption, yet still retains the realism that Philomena’s son would not have had a better life if he had stayed with his mother. What is important is the love of a mother and the right to be able to say goodbye.

A subtle, well-balanced tale will make you weep as well as laugh and you would be okay with it.
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