Year of Release: 2013
Director: Stephen Frears
Stars: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Anna Maxwell Martin, Mare Winningham, Barbara Jefford, Peter Hermann, Michelle Fairley
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7
"Philomena" follows the (true) story of Martin Sixsmith, a former BBC reporter going through a professional struggle, following his abrupt termination from a high profile career. He casually meets the daughter of Philomena, a lady in her 70s, who proceeds to tell him her life story. In the early 50s she had a child out of wedlock, while being taken care by nuns, and as a result, she was forced to work for them for the following 4 years. Her child was also taken from her and adopted by an American couple. After all these years, Philomena wants to know what happened to her son, and these seemingly different people embark on a quest that ultimately brings meaning and a new sense of peace to both (for different reasons).
Stephen Frears is a filmmaker who started his career on television. His best features always deal with a sense of realism, one that feels imminently truthful and close to the viewer. That has been the case with his features "My Beautiful Laundrette", "Prick Up Your Ears", "Dangerous Liaisons", "The Grifters", "The Snapper" and "Dirty Pretty Things". Though sometimes the match of his skills with the material isn't the most fortuitous, such as "Mary Reilly" or "Hero", his features always have a strong humane core. "Philomena" benefits from a screenplay (co-written by Steve Coogan), which adequately balances drama and humor, making the rhythm of the film feel effortless and fluid. It also helps that the two leads are great actors, who portray those characters superbly. This film doesn't try to be a condemnation of a time and of a mindset (for a closer look at the morality and brutality that is hinted here, Peter Mullan's "The Magdalene's Sisters" is the film to watch), it focuses instead on the journey of those two characters. A good film worth watching.