Director: Stephen Frears
Writers: Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope, Martin Sixsmith
Cast: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Mare Winningham, Barbara Jefford, Ruth McCabe, Peter Hermann, Sean Mahon, Anna Maxwell Martin, Michelle Fairley, Wunmi Mosaku, Amy McAllister, Charlie Murphy, Cathy Belton, Kate Fleetwood
Synopsis: 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.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 on appeal for some strong language, thematic elements and sexual references
10 / 10
- Well developed characters
- Great story with a lot of complex themes
- Excellent pacing
- Judi Dench brings a certain level of vulnerability to make you sympathize with her character, but she also carries a hint of inner strength as well
- Steve Coogan's smart a** personality meshes well with Judi Dench's bubbly personality, and his character's religious views help balance things out in the movie.
- Features arguably one of the saddest, yet happiest, endings that I've ever seen since "Forest Gump."
- It has some controversial subject matter regarding religion that might turn off some people from seeing it.
Arguably one of the most under appreciated movies ever made.
In all honesty, I doubt this film will ever get the recognition it deserves, but it's arguably one of the best movies that I've ever seen. Sure, it may not have the strong social commentary on a complex subject matter like racism that "12 Years a Slave" boasts. Nor will it have the amazing amount of hype as something like "Gravity" had going into the Oscars earlier this year. However, it has something a lot deeper than that. It has heart, and it tells the touching story about a woman trying to find her son again, after so many years.
Granted, that might sound like a simple tale, but there's a lot more to it than you might believe. "Philomena" is said to be based on a true story. The film follows an elderly woman named Philomena (Judi Dench), who resides in Ireland. Ages ago back when she still an underage teenager, she had an intimate encounter with a young man at a carnival. Their encounter was brief, but she ended up becoming pregnant. Her parents, outraged by this, force her to reside in a Catholic Church filled with harsh nuns.
In this church, the nuns forced teenage mothers to work as slave labor for them, while only allowing them to see their children for an hour a day. Sadly, their children were often given away for adoption without the mothers' consent, as the nuns justified it by saying how the girls didn't deserve to keep their babies because of the moral sin they committed.
Needless to say, a lot of these children, that were given up for adoption, were never able to see their parents again for various reasons. Mostly because the church claims they allegedly lost the records. As many of my readers can probably tell, Philomena was one of those unlucky mothers that lost her son.
Fast forward years later, she's an elderly woman residing in Ireland. Sure, she still has her daughter, but a part of her can't help but feel guilty about never knowing what happened to her son.
Enter Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), a no nonsense Atheist ex reporter who's currently working on a book going over Russian history. When he first hears about her story, he's a bit reluctant about it at first, but he inevitably agrees to help her. What transpires from here isn't for the faint of heart, as sometimes the truth comes with a heavy price.
Sometimes the people we trust the most can betray us, and the truth isn't always something we'd want to hear. And most of all, the film shows that it takes greater inner strength to forgive someone than holding a grudge.
"Philomena" may not be popular among most audiences, but it's arguably the best movie of last year. Not only is the story rather interesting in itself, but it's actually quite touching in a lot of ways. In fact, I haven't seen an ending that was both sad and happy at the same time since "Forest Gump."
I especially loved Judi Dench's performance in this film, as she brings a certain level of vulnerability; while displaying a hint of inner strength. Steve Coogan was brilliant in this performance as well. Hell, it makes me wonder why he wasn't nominated for "Best Supporting Actor" for his part, as he certainly earned it. The man plays a no nonsense ex reporter quite well, and his smart a** personality meshes well with Judi's quaint and bubbly personality. In fact, the film is almost worth watching just to see these two interact alone, as they'll give the original "Odd Couple" a run for their money.
Also, the fact that Steve's character happens to be an Atheist really helps balance things out in this film. Although Philomena is portrayed as being highly religious in this feature, it's almost interesting watching these two exchange philosophical ideas, and it especially makes a huge impact around the ending of the movie.
While I won't divulge what else happens in the film, it does bring up something highly controversial. Therefore, if you're one of these people that doesn't like controversial films when it comes to religion in general, then I'd probably avoid this one at all costs. However, if you go into this movie with an open mind, then you might yourself enthralled in arguably one of the best films of all time.
As I stated earlier, "Philomena" isn't going win any popularity contests with people, but it's definitely worth checking out. The story is probably one of the most touching ones that I've ever seen. The acting performances are great, and the film moves at a great pace as well. If you can keep an open mind about the film itself, then you'll definitely love "Philomena" every bit as I did. Hands down the best film of 2013.
© 2014 Steven Escareno