Movies
7:33 pm
Sat December 21, 2013

Philomena

If you grew up under the nuns, this film will justify your suspicions.

Philomena

Grade: B+

Director: Stephen Frears (The Queen)

Screenplay: Steve Coogan (The Parole Officer), Jeff Pope (Lucan), Martin Sixsmith, from his book “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee”

Cast: Judi Dench (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), Coogan (The Other Guys)

Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 98 min.

by John DeSando

Although Philomena is inspired by true events and not necessarily all true, truth aplenty is present throughout when the story spins outward from the restrictive world of repressive Catholicism, particularly as it relates to sexuality.

British and elderly, Philomena (Judi Dench) searches for her middle-aged son, Anthony, who was taken from her at the convent when he was a child and given to a wealthy couple. The nuns had no compunctions about separating mother and child because that separation was God’s will, the justifiable punishment for the sins of the flesh.

This film is a simple story about a mother who hires a journalist, Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), to find her son. It’s an odd couple, she a quiet former nurse, who mostly sees the world as benign and full of good will. He, however, is a cynic, from years of reporting on corruption and losing a job as the PM’s spokesperson. The virtue of the film is that while the plot moves apace to find Anthony, the two principals remain steadfastly themselves, although the search has brought out important parts of their personalities. Dench as always gives an Oscar worthy performance.  Comic Coogan is a surprisingly effective dramatic actor.

Because I was the product of Catholic education through the 8th grade with the Sisters of St. Joseph, I can attest to the profound effect the nuns had on our perception of sexuality.  Specifically, when a nun stood me up in 6th grade to declaim me as a “dirty thing” for holding a girl’s hand, even the newly minted “Joy of Sex” couldn’t mitigate the hang-ups the nuns’ attitudes toward sex engendered in me. The stern, damaging attitudes and actions of the nuns in this film ring true.

Philomena is about anyone’s journey to find a child and ultimately the self. How the sojourner responds, either despairingly or hopefully, is the reality that this film hits spot on. Love is all you need. 

John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at WCBE.org. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com

Although Philomena is inspired by true events and not necessarily all true, truth aplenty is present throughout when the story spins outward from the restrictive world of repressive Catholicism, particularly as it relates to sexuality.

British and elderly, Philomena (Judi Dench) searches for her middle-aged son, Anthony, who was taken from her at the convent when he was a child and given to a wealthy couple. The nuns had no compunctions about separating mother and child because that separation was God’s will, the justifiable punishment for the sins of the flesh.

This film is a simple story about a mother who hires a journalist, Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), to find her son. It’s an odd couple, she a quiet former nurse, who mostly sees the world as benign and full of good will. He, however, is a cynic, from years of reporting on corruption and losing a job as the PM’s spokesperson. The virtue of the film is that while the plot moves apace to find Anthony, the two principals remain steadfastly themselves, although the search has brought out important parts of their personalities. Dench as always gives an Oscar worthy performance.  Comic Coogan is a surprisingly effective dramatic actor.

Because I am the product of Catholic education through the 8th grade with the Sisters of St. Joseph, I can attest to the profound effect the nuns had on our perception of sexuality.  Specifically, when a nun stood me up in 6th grade to expose me as a “dirty thing” for holding a girl’s hand, even the newly-minted “Joy of Sex” couldn’t mitigate the hang-ups the nuns’ attitudes toward sex engendered in me. The stern, damaging attitudes and actions of the nuns in this film ring true.

Philomena is about anyone’s journey to find a child and ultimately the self. How the sojourner responds, either despairingly or hopefully, is the reality that this film hits spot on. Love is all you need.  

John DeSando hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at WCBE.org. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com

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