Saturday movie review: 'Philomena'

I'm continually amazed by the countless number of incredible stories of common, everyday people living extraordinary lives. Especially when those people don't consider their own story all that extraordinary and special.

PHILOMENA is such a story, and Philomena Lee is exactly that sort of extraordinary woman of which I speak.


The engaging drama PHILOMENA is based on the 2009 book titled The Lost Child of Philomena Lee. In 1952, Philomena Lee (Judi Dench), an Irish teen, became pregnant out of wedlock. She was sent to the Roscrea convent to have her child and work basically as a slave to pay back the assistance she, a "fallen woman," was given by the nuns. Once Philomena's son was a toddler, the nuns adopted him out to Americans, and Philomena — feeling horrendous guilt for her "sin" — kept the entire story a secret for more than 50 years.

Until her adult daughter, Jane, (Anna Maxwell Martin) shared her mother's story with former BBC journalist Martin Sixsmith (played by Steve Coogan).

Oh, what an incredible tale and what an incredible woman. Philomena's unbelievably true and surprisingly powerful story is so very sad yet so very uplifting. The inimitable Judi Dench does a fantastic job portraying not only the heartbreak and loss but the joy Philomena still carried with her, despite what she'd been through. The connection between Philomena (Dench) and Martin (Coogan) feels genuine and real. And important, as the true-life Philomena and Martin have made such a tremendous difference in the lives of other mothers who suffered losses similar to Philomena's and who continue their search for their loved ones.

Judi Dench is so lovely in this interview about the film that I can't help but share it:

I recently read that Philomena Lee had the opportunity to meet with Pope Francis and was absolutely delighted with the opportunity. I found her joy in that quite sweet and touching, seemingly epitomizing Philomena's true character.

PHILOMENA (rated PG-13 "on appeal for some strong language, thematic elements and sexual references") was nominated for several prestigious awards, including Best Picture. The film and cast won a handful. The movie is now out on DVD, Blu-ray and digitally. Find out more on the official website. And if you watch the film on DVD or Blu-ray, be sure to watch the special features to learn more about Philomena Lee.