© Universum/SquareOne

U.K./U.S.A./France 2013

Opening 27 Feb 2014

Directed by: Stephen Frears
Writing credits: Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope, Martin Sixsmith
Principal actors: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Mare Winningham, Barbara Jefford

How do I write a review about a movie that has won an award at the Venice film festival, may be up for an Oscar and stars such an incredible actor as Judi Dench when I sat through at least half of the movie bored? The story is very moving: Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) searches for her son she lost 50 years ago. A pregnant teenager, she found herself living in a strict Catholic convent where she had to work to repay her debts for giving birth there. Against her will, her child is then given up for adoption, and she spends the next 50 years living with her secret. The recently unemployed journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) comes across her story and decides to leave his realm of politics and high society for a human interest story. He journeys with Philomena back to the convent Roscrea, across the ocean to the United States, and again to Roscrea where the circle is closed.

Sixsmith quotes to Philomena:

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

The true journey of this film is how Philomena and Sixsmith learn to accept each other’s differences and the gift of faith. Philomena learns that the world is larger than her strict Catholic Ireland yet small enough to keep her enormous faith alive. Sixsmith learns that one can still hold on to belief even in the face of lies, betrayal and journalism. Although the story is slow to unfold, the film is worth seeing. Judi Dench gives everything to the character that Philomena and her story deserve. (Alana Leichert)

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