Directed by Stephen Frears
Written by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
Based on the book by Martin Sixsmith
Starring: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan
Journalist Martin Sixsmith (Coogan) needs to get back to work. After an unceremonious end to his last job, he’s looking to get back into the game. He finds his opportunity in the story of Philomena Lee (Dench), a woman in search of the son she was forced to give up for adoption. In her youth, Philomena was imprisoned in a convent after becoming pregnant. In addition to the forced labor she endured, she was also cut off from her young son. For years her search has proved fruitless, but now she has hope that Martin can find the answers to her burning questions.
This story comes from the novel, The Lost Child of Philomena Lee: A Mother, Her Son and a Fifty Year Search, written by Martin Sixsmith. His account of the true story was adapted for this movie by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope (Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman). The film was directed by Stephen Frears (The Queen). The stars of the film include Steve Coogan (Despicable Me 2), as well as award-winning actress Judi Dench (Skyfall).
The acting in this film is wonderful. Most of the movie seems to happen between Coogan and Dench, and the chemistry is great. Judi Dench truly carries the film with an emotional and strong performance as a woman seeking the truth about a son she never knew. Coogan does a good job, not only balancing the emotion in the film, but also in holding his own during some of the more intense scenes with Dench. In addition to these two, the rest of the cast does a great job. The actress playing the younger Philomena, Sophie Kennedy Clark, does an excellent job with a very emotional and intense role.
The story for this film takes some creative license with the true story that inspired it. Still, the movie stays true to the theme and the emotions behind it. The dialogue is witty at times and poignant at others, working out to a very fine balance. The story also avoids spending much time on some of the obvious political or moral angles it might have taken. Overall, Pope and Coogan did a great job with the adaptation.
The movie features some incredible sets, locations, and costuming. The film creates two separate eras with a very authentic feel. The camera work and the other technical efforts in the film paid off nicely as well. This includes a wonderful score written by Alexandre Desplat (Argo).
The film has found a large amount of critical acclaim, as well as a fair amount of criticism. Some of this comes from people who feel that the film is an unfair attack on the Catholic church. I think this is a bit of a stretch. In fairness, the film is about a devout woman seeking answers about events that took place five decades prior. Overall, this is a wonderful film about a very different period in history.
I would recommend this one to anyone who likes great drama. I would also suggest this to fans of Coogan or Dench, who both do some great work in the film. This isn’t a film for everyone due to the harsh nature of some of the events. I give this one 4.5 out of 5 stars.