Judi Dench and Steve Coogan excel in a warm bitter-sweet humanistic humorous drama directed by the renowned Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liasons, Dirty Pretty Things). Philomena (Dench) is a typical 70-year-old simple-minded God-fearing Catholic from Ireland who sees in people only the good that her then three-year-old son Anthony was taken from more than half a century ago. She remained pregnant as a teenager, her parents sent her to a convent where she also gave birth, and one day some strangers just showed up and took her son away. Half a century has passed, but Philomena is still not at peace and wants to know what happened to her son. Quite by chance at a party, her daughter will meet London journalist Martin Sixsmith (Coogan), who has just lost his job as a government spin doctor.
And in the beginning, Martin will not be particularly interested in Philomena’s story and writing “Human Interest Stories” because he plans to dedicate himself to writing a book on the modern history of Russia. But after meeting a humble, honest, sympathetic and honest old woman, he will still be interested in the story and try to help her in her search. Although the two can’t be different because Martin is one of those cynical types, a disappointed atheist who sees only the worst in people and knows very well how the world works while Philomena sees only good in people and doesn’t want to blame anyone for what happened to her because it’s all part of God’s plan, they’ll go together in search of her son. They will travel through the Irish convent where Philomena gave birth in the early 1950s and where she was then forced to work as a housekeeper for years to atone for her sin all the way to America and back.
Probably many people are well aware of the stories about Irish monasteries and everything that happened there until recently (if not, I recommend reading the film “The Magdalene Sisters” from 2002), but Philomena’s son was one of those who knows how many thousands of children sold to America. So while she has every reason to be angry and angry at the church for what happened to her, Philomena is not at all an embittered woman eager for revenge. Although everyone has the right to be a victim, her only mission is to find out what her son’s fate was and if possible explain to him that she did not leave him of her own free will and find out what kind of man he grew up into. And indeed, this is a great and multi-layered film that is also a witty road movie comedy, detective story, anti-clerical drama about the abominations of the Catholic Church and a spiritual drama about morals, faith and differences between people that can and should be a link between them, not what separates them.
With the help of the experienced Jeff Pope, Coogan wrote the screenplay for this film and is one of the producers, and such somewhat subtle roles of sarcastic, cynical types somehow best suit his character. But this whole story is carried by the perfect Dench as an open, somewhat naive, chatty and simple woman who wishes all men the best, even to her own detriment. She achieved “Philomena” and excellent commercial success ($ 100 million in earnings on a budget of $ 12 million), as well as critical acclaim. After the film won a handful of awards in Venice (including Coogan and Pope for Best Screenplay), “Philomena” was nominated for four Oscars. Among them for best film, adapted screenplay, leading female role and original music.
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