Steve Coogan and Judi Dench star as Martin Sixsmith and Philomena Lee

Reel Reviews: True story of Philomena is heart-wrenching

Taylor and Howe say: “Philomena is a fine film that is engrossing, sad and true.”

  • Dec. 22, 2013 12:00 p.m.

In 1952, young Philomena spent a magical night with a charming young man at an Irish country fair. Nine months later, after being ostracized by her father, Philomena gave birth to a boy she named Anthony at a convent.

Her penance for her sins and payment to the convent is four years labour and to give her son up for adoption.

Before Anthony turns three, he is adopted by an American couple and Philomena isn’t even allowed the opportunity to say goodbye.

Fifty years pass and as Philomena (Judi Dench) enters her golden years, her thoughts turn to her son and what might have become of him. A recently unemployed journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) happens upon Philomena and her story at a time in his life when he needs a story to tell and the two begin the hunt for Anthony.

Coming up against botched bureaucracy, obstinate nuns, her own religious beliefs and guilt, Philomena has more to deal with than just personal detective work.

We say, “Philomena is a fine film that is engrossing, sad and true.”

TAYLOR: Philomena is a gentle and simple woman. She may be the most kind and forgiving character I’ve seen in a film in a long time. She loves terrible sweets and romance novels. She is a faithful Catholic and sees God’s plan unfolding for her in her life. The people around her can’t help but like her. She’s a very sweet, old Irish lady. The only time she seems to get angry is when the people around her aren’t able to be as kind to others as she. I have no idea what the real Philomena is like, but Judi Dench plays a character that seems believable.

HOWE: I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. Yes it was a little sappy in places, but it is meant to pull at the heartstrings with some laughs thrown in for good measure.

Dame Dench is fantastic at what she does, be it from playing in the ‘80s TV comedy series A Fine Romance to M in the Bond movies. As for Steve Coogan, the guy is just a comic genius. His delivery of his lines, his facial expressions and mannerisms are what have made him a huge household name back in Britain.

By the way, just for your information, “Tunes” are cough sweets. They are meant to taste terrible.

TAYLOR: Coogan may be a comic genius, but this is by no means a comedy. It has a couple laughs and Philomena is sweet, but I find the subplot more interesting than the search for her son, or even the results of that search. For me, this is a movie about zealotry. The nuns who screwed up Philomena’s life in the first place did so earnestly and now, unable to see the error of their ways without calling into question their own entire belief systems, (or at least their interpretation of them), they must stick to their guns, regardless of how cruel or evil they are. Then, the real heart of the matter becomes how Philomena deals with the nuns, which illustrates her character that much more.

Howe gives Philomena 4 Saint Christophers out of 5.

– Taylor gives it 4 religious contracts out of 5.

The film is currently showing at the Towne Theatre in downtown Vernon.

Brian Taylor and Peter Howe are film critics based in Vernon, B.C.

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