Friday, January 17, 2014

Philomena: Forgiven but not Forgotten



Stephen Frear's Philomena is a quality film, directed with admirable restraint and sensitivity. It's a familiar scenario. Jaded British journalist reluctantly takes on investigation on behalf of the powerless to set right past transgressions. In this case it's an Irish mother searching for her son 'stolen' in the 1950s.

It is tempting to find out how much of this film is 'based on a true story' but that's a bit like comparing the movie with the book. Nevertheless, it is quite legit to ask how much stored knowledge of the Catholic church's adoption policies and practices of the past, if any, the viewer needs to fully understand the issues raised or the personal anguish of the girls involved and their children. My exposure to many of the issues raised has been fairly extensive.

Steve Coogan is a pleasant surprise as journo Martin Sixsmith. He was also co-writer of the screenplay. Judi Dench is as professional as ever but that cheeky, knowing look she gives somehow doesn't match Philomena Lee's old-fashioned faith and lack of guile.

Wikipedia looks at accusations of anti-Catholicism. I thought the church got off lightly but let's not go into the 'churches abusing human rights' genre - it's very extensive.

There are a couple of bizarre twists towards the end that only a 'true story' can deliver without the necessity to suspend belief. It is based on Sixsmith's 'The Lost Child Of Philomena Lee' published in 2009.


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