Philomena
Directed By: Stephen Frears
Starring: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Barbara Jefford, Mare Winningham

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This movie’s greatest mistake was portraying it as a comedy. Philomena’s story was never going to have a happy ending, it’s something we understand from the beginning. While the story is great and the actors give wonderful performances, the movie is ultimately a letdown due to a not so great script.

Premise:  Philomena is the story of a woman who was forced to sign the rights away to her child when her family sends her to a convent for pregnant teens. After spending three years loving him, he is adopted never to be seen again. Philomena Lee spent the next 50 years looking for her son, returning to the convent for information but ultimately getting the run-around. Her daughter seeks out recently shunned journalist Martin Sixsmith and he and Philomena follow a trail of clues to find her son and learn more about him.

While the story is compelling, the movie is let down by the filmmakers and their portrayal of the characters. My two biggest problems with the film are below (besides it being a “comedy”), but unfortunately contain spoilers so continue at your own risk. Ultimately the movie left me completely unsatisfied.

Rating: C+

 

****SPOILERS BELOW****

 

[Don’t read if you intend on seeing the movie. I will ruin it for you. You can just skip to the bottom for my rating.]

 

Mini Rants/Random Thoughts on the Characters

1)      I didn’t really like Philomena Lee. She was obviously a sweet old woman with a good heart. When she was younger she went through something absolutely tragic but as an adult that fact doesn’t seem to weigh on her, even if she spent the past 50 years searching for her son.  Instead of coming off as a strong woman with a good heart, she comes off as naïve and well a bit foolish. It’s hard to believe a woman who’s been through so much wouldn’t be holding on to some – a lot – of bitterness. I wanted to see her let go, like really let go of everything she was so obviously holding on to. I wanted her to yell at that nun for taking away her child and lying to her about his whereabouts for years and years and years. I wanted her to tell the nun how it made her feel to have that time stolen from her. I wanted her to show some kind of emotion, real emotion. Whether this is what “really happened” or not, it just felt absolutely unsatisfying.

2)      I also didn’t like the fact that we learned hardly anything about her son. Thought out the movie they showed some clips, and Philomena met with some people regarding his life. But we never truly learned about him as a person, or the life he had with his husband. How did they meet? Why did his husband love him so? What was he like as a child? What was his relationship like with his sister. This story is just as much about her son as it is about Philomena. Supposedly the actual book goes deeper into Anthony’s life so why didn’t the movie as well? At a brisk 94 minutes, surely the movie could have incorporated more depth into the film.

 

 

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