December 3, 2013 -- This movie is a good vehicle for Dame Judi Dench and Steve Coogan (“24 Hour Party People”) and they make the most of it. This film works like those mismatched cop partner films. You've got two very different people on a mission to find the truth about a woman's long lost son. It isn't all about the performances, either, this is a very good story, based on fact.
Judi Dench plays Philomena, a woman searching for her son, Anthony, who was taken from her by the Catholic Church many years ago. Philomena has been unable to get any information from the nuns in the orphanage in Ireland where her son spent his first few years. She turns to a politician, Martin Sixsmith (played by Coogan) who has just lost his job and is starting to get back into journalism.
Philomena, named after a Catholic Saint, is a devout believer, while Martin is a non-believer with contempt for the church and its teachings. When they go to the orphanage, they are told the records about who adopted Anthony have been lost in a fire. Later, they find out this was not an accidental fire, that the records were burned on purpose. They also find out the church has been making a lot of money on these adoptions, charging a lot of money to wealthy Americans.
Getting the stonewall treatment from the nuns, Martin uses his American contacts to try to find out who adopted Anthony. Philomena agrees to accompany Martin on a trip to America. The authorities won't reveal adoption information to Martin, but they are required by law to reveal the information to Philomena.
Their American odyssey leads them to a woman who was raised as Anthony's sister, and to the friends of Anthony. Some of these people are not very helpful. At times, both Martin and Philomena become discouraged in their search for the truth, but they press on. At last, their journey takes them full circle, prompting Martin to quote T.S. Elliot:“We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring
This is one of the year's best movies, with some great performances. The movie plays it safe on the question of religious faith, but it has enough righteous indignation to give the story an edge. This film rates an A.
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