2013 / Director. Stephen Frears.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
With all of the cult films and b-movies I've been consuming lately I thought it was high time I turned my attention to something more serious. PHILOMENA has been on my radar since it's theatrical run and tonight I finally sat down and watched it. To say that it left an impression is an understatement. It broke my heart. It reduced me to tears and it amused me all at once. It tells the true story of Philomena Lee, an elderly lady who has been searching for her son for fifty years. She fell pregnant in her late teens and was abandoned by her family to a convent, which housed "sinful" mothers and their children. All children were kept separate and most were sold off to wealthy Catholic Americans. The mothers were forced to work gruelling, laborious jobs seven days a week as repentance. PHILOMENA tells the story of one woman's search with the assistance of a journalist who is desperate to redeem his career after a public sacking. Together they travel to America looking for the smallest of clues. I needn't say any more about the story, only that it is full of ups and downs and twists and turns. This is an amazing tale that will warm your heart one minute and infuriate you the next. Judi Dench and Steve Coogan deliver stella performances and have been paired with each other brilliantly. Coogan plays the cynical atheist while Dench is the ever-faithful Catholic. The film has received as much criticism for being anti-Catholic as it has received accolades from just about everywhere else. It is not an anti-religion movie at all, but it is definitely a condemnation of the institute itself and the crimes committed behind its walls (cue the anger). PHILOMENA is a beautiful film that manages to balance the drama and comedy equally. It never lets the comedy undermine the drama and the performances given are both charming and heartfelt. A definite winner and another score for director Stephen Frears. A brilliant filmmaker.