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  • Writer's pictureMax Markowitz


A Moving Journey

Philomena is a beautiful and often hilarious true story about friendship and empathy. Nominated for four Oscars, Philomena is an immediate go-to for anyone in need of a great film that inspires hope, embraces courage and communicates the depths of personal sorrow.

London-based journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) has lost his job as a government advisor. He is approached at a party by Jane Lee, (Anna Maxwell Martin) daughter of Philomena Lee (Judi Dench). She wants him to write a story about her mother who was forced to give up her toddler son Anthony nearly fifty years prior. Initially hesitant to write a human interest story, he meets Philomena and decides to investigate her case.

In 1951, Philomena became pregnant and was sent by her father to Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea Ireland. After giving birth, she was forced to work in the convent laundry for four years, having little contact with her child. The nuns eventually gave her son up for adoption without giving Philomena a chance to say goodbye. She kept her lost son a secret her whole life until finally confiding in her daughter.

Martin and Philomena’s journey takes them back to Roscrea and then all the way to Washington DC. Throughout the journey, the two of them learn more than they knew and form an unexpected friendship.

Judi Dench’s performance is one of love, warmth, humor, heartbreak and overall perfection. Philomena is emotionally wounded by what happened to her and her son but she’s not angry. She just wants to find him and know the full truth. She takes the journey very seriously but also enjoys traveling. She’s in awe of how big the world is and shows deep gratitude for the wonders she and Martin experience along the way.

She’s also very sincere which I deeply admire her. If she says something meaningful, it’s because she really means it. She has a very warm heart and is very forgiving. The lack of anger she feels towards those who’ve wronged her only makes their inability to take responsibility more blood boiling. Philomena is someone that makes you wonder if it’s possible to forgive someone if they’re not sorry. This is something that really stayed with me and something I still think about today.

Steve Coogan’s performance is one of growth and intelligence. Martin is very bitter when we first meet him. He’s enraged at being fired for something that wasn’t his fault and he’s at a professional crossroads. He’s unsure of his next step and Philomena gives him the chance to swim in the exciting waters of journalism again.

He’s very angered by what Philomena has endured and he’s unable to comprehend why she doesn’t reciprocate his growing rage. Philomena’s kind and gentle nature slowly soften him as the journey goes on but also makes him more protective of her. Philomena is like this great good fairy and Martin can’t ignore how life has violently ripped her wings out of her back.

Alexandre Desplat’s Oscar-nominated score gives Philomena the cinematic vibe of loss, humor, and adventure. It could play on the radio and you’d remember instantly where it’s from. Robbie Ryan’s exciting cinematography makes way for visually enticing views of Irish landscapes and both humble and luxury interiors. Films like Philomena always make the idea of traveling so exciting. Especially to places you’ve never been to.

Overall, Philomena is a humorously entertaining and beautiful story about the beauty of new people that can come into our lives for the better. Judi Dench is an English treasure whose flawless performance is one to be watched again and again.

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