Director: Stephen Frears
Nominated: Best Picture; Best Actress; Music; Best Adapted Screenplay
Philomena is not a great advert for the Catholic Church in Ireland at all. It is however a wonderful film with a delightful performance by Dame Judi Dench, as the titular Philomena.
This year the Oscars are packed with films portraying the life story of real people (Captain Phillips; Dallas Buyer’s Club; Lone Survivor; Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom; Saving Mr Banks; The Wolf of Wall Street and 12 Years A Slave) and Philomena is just one of many. The real life story of Philomena Lee’s search to find the son taken from her by the church. It’s a deeply moving film, though not devoid of comedy and light-hearted moments.
The relationship played out between Philomena, a sweet little old lady, and Martin Sixsmith, the disillusioned, cynical and disgraced journalist who takes up her story … initially out of desperation for a job … is heart warming. Philomena’s optimism and enjoyment of everything break down the walls Sixsmith has built up and they form an unlikely, odd couple, friendship.
I was impressed with Steve Coogan’s performance as Sixsmith. I cannot stand his comedic roles, especially Alan Partridge, so approached Philomena with a sense of dread but found myself completely taken in by his character thankfully.
Judi Dench is as usual impeccable and really is the heart of the film. Along the lines of The Magdalene Sisters (2002, Peter Mullan) Philomena draws attention to the less than Christian practices of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. It leaves a nasty taste in your mouth watching young children being removed from their mothers for no other reason than money.
I would have the same reaction as Sixsmith – I don’t think I would be able to forgive someone like that. I would have liked to see Coogan nominated for Best Supporting Actor as their two performances are so intertwined. For me the way Philomena bounced off Sixsmith made Judi Dench’s performance not only more powerful but more enjoyable to watch.