PHILOMENA Movie Review – Dame Judi Dench & Steve Coogan At Their Best
Philomena is a movie inspired by events based on the book by Martin Sixsmith, The Lost Child of Philomena Lee. Philomena is based on a true story about an Philomena Lee who spent a long time searching for the toddler son she gave up for adoption as an unwed teen living in a convent. The film stars Dame Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophia Kennedy Clark, Mare Winningham, Barbara Jefford, Peter Hermann, Sean Mahon, Michelle Fairley, Anna Maxwell Martin, Wunmi Mosaku and many more. It is directed by Stephen Frears and screenplay is by Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope and Martin Sixsmith(his book). The film was nominated for four Academy Awards which were Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Original Score, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
(There will be spoilers!)
Throughout the film we see moments in Philomena Lee’s life in which she found quick love with a boy. She became pregnant and while having the baby she endured excruciating pain. The nuns who helped deliver the baby had the thought that this was justified pain, because of her getting pregnant. She had her baby and along with others who were in this convent and they all got to visit their kids a mere hour a day. One day a car arrives and they begin to take the kids and Philomena’s kid was taken. She spends her entire life wondering exactly what happened to her son and decides she wants to go find him, visiting the convent on many occasions.To either find him or just see him, anything to know he’s okay. She kept this a secret for a long fifty years and Martin Sixsmith, a journalist, decides to accompany her and help her find out information about her son and wants to write a story about the whole ordeal. They embark on a journey that is incredibly inspiring. (I will be saying a spoiler now so if you don’t want to know about the outcome of the film…start reading the next paragraph which will have no spoilers) They find out that her son changed his name to Michael and he had grown up to be a lawyer and senior official in the Ronald Regan and George H. W. Bush administrations. Also, he was with an American family and that he was gay and had died nine years earlier of AIDS. They visit his sister and she says more things about Michael. They then visit Pete who was in a relationship with Michael to see exactly what had happened. He shows them a video of Michael throughout the years they had been in an relationship. They then see a moment where Michael is at the convent with the nuns. Martin and Philomena wonder why he was there and Pete tells them that he had been searching for his mother. Although the nuns had told Philomena and Martin at one point that they had no records of him and didn’t know anything about him, they now have evidence that the nuns were lying. Pete then also says that Michael was buried at the convent, because it was his home. Philomena and Martin then head back to the convent to confront the nuns and see why they didn’t say anything. Martin gets into an argument with the head nun who continuously said it was the right thing to do. Philomena then forgives all the nuns, even thought it was far to difficult too, she still did. One of the nuns then takes Philomena outside where Michael is buried and she spends time just looking at the grave stone and is overcome with emotion. Martin, after he calms down, buys Philomena a Jesus figure and gives it to her to put on Michael’s grave.
The chemistry between Dame Judi Dench and Steve Coogan was beautiful. There were comedic moments, sad moments, heartfelt moments and plenty of amazing bonding. The chemistry between a journalist and the subject the journalist is writing a story about needs to be on a good level and throughout the film you see that happen. Dame Judi Dench gives one of her best performances yet and once again proves that she’s in a league of her own. Steve Coogan takes a break from his usual comedic roles and does a tremendous job in this film. I, along with many most likely, hope that he continues doing more serious roles because this films shows how great he is. Also, there are so many beautiful shots in the film with gorgeous cinematography and settings. Very wonderfully directed by Stephen Frears.