I wasn’t all that interested in the film Philomena when it first came out, despite Judi Dench’s nomination for an Academy Award for her performance in the leading role. But my husband started to watch it on Netflix, and I was soon drawn into this fascinating film inspired by a true story.
Philomena (Judi Dench) has a secret. A big secret. Having given birth as a teen in a convent, and then subsequently losing her child to adoption, she finally discloses the existence of a son to her adult daughter. Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), a journalist recently unemployed, decides to take on her human-interest story for a magazine feature, and together, they proceed to follow the clues leading to Philomena’s lost son.
The way the film was structured, using flashbacks to Philomena’s youth alternating to present day searching, effectively shows us Philomena’s emotions which vacillate back and forth in an approach/avoidance fashion as she moves ever closer to the truth of what happened with her son. Martin makes a good detective as he has the drive to ask the tough questions and not give up until they are answered.
The two make an unlikely pair, and grate on one another endlessly. The chemistry between them is good, and I don’t mean that in a romantic way. The friendship they develop feels real, as does the compassion they have for each other as well. The two trot across the globe all the way to America, a first for Philomena, as one lost piece of information after another is revealed that helps fill in the blanks.
Philomena is rated PG-13 for some strong language, thematic elements and sexual references. I recommend this film. It may make you angry, or it may make you sad; either way, it will make an impression on you. I admire the screenwriting by Steve Coogan (who starred as journalist Martin) and Jeff Pope, as well as the directing by Stephen Frears.
There always seems to be young girls naïve and in love who “get into trouble,” and then with no way to support the child, find adoption or some other arrangement the only solution open to them. Back when Philomena had her baby, the social mores were even more rigid than they are now. Shamed and humiliated, the family rejects the young girl when they should really be hunting down the man who impregnated her and making him pay.
For an alternate view on girls in trouble, watch The Cider House Rules, an excellent film (story by John Irving) that was released in 1999. Watching the talents of Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron and Michael Caine, you may compare how different times and cultures deal with the problem of accidental conception, a child unwanted and unable to be cared for. I have read that teenage girls become pregnant not by other teenage boys, but by older men the majority of the time. This problem won’t stop until the culture of men feeling entitled to sex, especially with minors, is addressed.