A feel good movie that makes me want to forgive all the petty grudges I hold against people in my everyday life. Philomena, a movie based on a true story captured by Martin Sixsmith’s novel, The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, brings together two outstanding actors Judy Dench and SteveCoogan. It is definitely their acting which raises the stature of the movie to something beyond a diatribe against an insensitive Catholic Church and a sexually myopic America. I thoroughly enjoyed the easy banter between Philomena and her journalist friend Martin as they ventured on an improbable journey from Oxbridge to a suburb of Washington DC to find Philomena’s son who she ‘gave up’ when he was a toddler, and she but a teenager!
The movie presents a situation that would be any mother's nightmare, but with Judy Dench as Philomena, the nightmare worked itself out toward a redemption. Having watched and enjoyed the movie, I now have a strong urge to read Sixsmith’s novel. I’m also intrigued by the recently publicized reaction of the “order of nuns, the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in County Tipperary, who claim they were made to look like ‘villains’. Sister Julie Rose, the order’s assistant congregational leader, said the film ‘does not tell the whole truth, and in many ways is very misleading’.” Without a doubt, the nuns and the Catholic nunnery are the bad guys in this mellow yet heartwarming tale. Strangely, however their victim Philomena does not hold a grudge against them. A devout Catholic herself, Philomena believes the separation was part of the penitence she needed to do for having enjoyed premarital sex. The all forgiving Philomena is also very appreciative of the American family that adopted her son; she feels it gave him opportunities far better than she could ever have done, and for that she is grateful. However, the audience is not as forgiving. We cannot condone what the Sisters at the Nunnery did to Philomena, and we are also suspect about just how well life turned out for the separated son of Philomena in the United States, especially in the light of the fact that he was gay, and he was a part of the Reagan administration.
Philomena, the movie, is the story of a separation; yet, I came out of the cinema hall with a warm and fuzzy feeling of having witnessed a reunion. Intriguing as that thought is, I strongly recommend you watch this movie if you enjoy underplayed emotion, witty banter, and acting par excellence.