A world-weary political journalist picks up the story of a woman’s search for her son, who was taken away from her decades ago after she became pregnant and was forced to live in a convent.
Lovely and enjoyable movie about a heartbreaking true story.
Though some poetic license was taken (as well as some unnecessary editorializing), the basics of the story are intact. A young woman, naive about the birds & bees, finds herself pregnant out-of-wedlock – something shameful in the ’50s, and even worse for a Catholic girl in Ireland. Philomena Lee (Dench) is sent to a convent, where she will give birth & do her penance by working off her ‘debt’ to the nuns for 4 years.
After their children are born, the fallen women are allowed to see them only for brief visits always knowing that at any time the children could be adopted out. Anthony is taken away when he is 3 years-old, leaving a devastated Philomena to get on with her life.
Though she never stops thinking of him, and tries through the years to track him down, it is 50 years before she gets any satisfaction. Finally unable to suppress the longing, she tells her daughter about the boy who was taken from her all those years ago. Her daughter tells a journalist (Martin Sixsmith, portrayed by Steve Coogan) The journalist takes up the cause, throwing his considerable resources behind the hunt.
Though the story is fairly well known, and so you may already know how it ends, the beauty of this telling is not in the destination, but the journey. We get to know Lee and Sixsmith as they travel together in search of answers. In the featurette I’ve linked below they mention how the humor of their relationship makes the heart-wrenching search easier to take. It does.
It also gives Dench an opportunity to show why so many accolades and awards have been heaped upon her. The supporting cast here is fine, but it is clearly the Dame’s show.
This rates highly on the Word of Mouth Scale for having relatable humor and an accessible storyline. There are a few in my circle who would find it too “wordy”, but not every film can have be a Jason Statham shoot-’em-up.
Go ahead and see this one – odds are high you will like it.
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 92%; Audience 90%