Synopsis: Exhausted from the politics of the world, a journalist follows a woman on her search for her long-lost son, who was forced to live in a church, only to have her son taken away from her.


Cast: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Mare Winningham, Barbara Jefford.

Just…wow. I am in awe-struck. The story definitely pulled some heart-strings as I thought of how realistically close the movie must come home to some people.

The most striking message of the film: forgiveness and faith.  After everything the church traumatized Philomena, she still respects them, so much so, as to try to sugar coat the horrendous events that occurred. Even when Martin Sixsmith called the church “evil”, she despised him for it. Her faith in god and the church were extremely passionate- I feel like using “brainwashed” might come off as a bit harsher then I mean it to but it is my opinion. Nothing wrong with god. Or the church, for that matter. In fact, it seems that having some belief does help people to be the best they can (when she forgives Sister Hildgarde for keeping her and her son separate- even when Anthony was on the brink of death).

It doesn’t always have to be in a divine higher power; even the hope that her little boy was out there, being fed and loved and the possibility of him thinking about her, was enough for her to live 50 years without him. What I found devastatingly moving was, when it seemed that Anthony didn’t think about his birth mother, Philomena was ready to accept that. But not him. When the church told Anthony that his mother hadn’t come looking for him, he didn’t take the rejection; he still wanted to be buried there because he trusted his mother, a stranger he never met before but hoped regardless. That is the epitome of belief.

It was heart-warming to see the spiritual journey of Martin Sixsmith; how he went from philomena-image01heartless journalist to tender friend to Philomena. He was so heartless that, in the beginning, he calls human interests section of the paper “weak-minded, for and read by ignorant people”. In the end, he becomes empathic but certainly not any of the adjectives he used to describe such people. He started to genuinely care about Philomena; when his boss at the newspaper told him to keep her there no matter, it broke him to deceive her so he let her make her own decision to stay; when he offered not to publish the story, knowing he was putting his career on the line. This is a prime example of how a person can change; different things will change different people. For Sixsmith, it was observing someone else’s life change, to change himself.

Even if Philomena disliked the anger with which Martin was threatening Sister Hildegarde, you can glimpse the purity of his intent: to bring justice to those who have been wronged. I believe that kind of passion to do what is morally right is appreciated, even if the way he went about to bring it was aggressive. It’s hard- exceptionally difficult– to forgive and forget. Sixsmith was exasperated and it wasn’t even his child that was taken away from him! Again, I’m marvelling at the strength with which Philomena just turned away…an inspiration to all of us to get over the petty little things in life, I’d like to hope.

It nearly killed me to hear that her dad had told everyone she was dead because he was so embarrassed by his daughter. I’m not promoting promiscuous sex- don’t do it- but something like that is utterly destructive to a person’s sense of self. There are worst things in life people have done. There is a difference between hurting yourself and hurting others. If you aggrieve yourself by having promiscuous sex, fine, it doesn’t really affect anyone else but yourself. And possibly your parents. But if you lie to others, treat them badly or injustify people, that is worse than hurting yourself. Maybe this belief is inherent in people and, so, without realising it, most people would side with Philomena than the church, because the church was causing sorrow in others.

On a different note, when the church told Philomena that her son’s records had been destroyed in the great fire, but only the contract that she couldn’t go after him remained

Judy Dench and Philomena Lee
Judi Dench and Philomena Lee

(how convenient)- the reason they gave for this was because the church was ashamed foe having sold babies to Americans. Keeping in my mind this is a true story, does anyone else think , say for example, if a person does something wrong and feels ashamed about, wouldn’t the next instinct be to try to help what or who you have wronged, however possible? It took me by surprise when the church was still trying to hide the babies from their mothers if they were sorry…maybe their true intention was to burn all those documents so there was no written proof that they ever did sell the babies. Maybe that’s just my crazy conspiracy theory. Anyone has any extra information on this topic, I would appreciate it greatly 🙂

One aspect I have to really hand to the cinematography team is when they ran clips of Anthony’s life throughout Philomena. It’s a very brief, but sure-fire way, of helping the audience discover him as his mother does. Very clever.

Overall, an emotional-roller-coaster of a movie. A part of me had wished that this movie had won in the Oscar awards; but then again I have a soft spot with anything with kids in it. Brilliant performance by the main actress and deserves the recognition that she got from the Oscars. I hope for all the separated mothers and children that they shall find each other one gloriously beautiful day.

Verdict: 10 of 10 kicks

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