In Philomena, multiple award-winning actress Dame Judi Dench brings to screen a working-class Irish mother who enlists a jaded journalist to help her find the son nuns forced her to give up decades earlier.
This latest offering from the Kitchen Stove Film Series tells the story of Philomena, a teenager in 1952 Ireland who fell pregnant and was sent to the convent of Roscrea to be looked after as a “fallen woman.”
When her baby Anthony was only a toddler, he was taken away by the nuns for adoption in America and Philomena spent the next 50 years searching for him in vain.
She then solicits the help of recently unemployed and unapologetically cynical Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), a world-weary political journalist who happened to be intrigued by her story.
Together they set off for America on a journey that would not only reveal the extraordinary story of Philomena’s son, but also create an unexpectedly close bond between them.
At the Roscrea convent where she spent her pivotal years, they find nothing but burnt documents and tight-lipped nuns.
Just when they think all hope is lost, Sixsmith sparks up a conversation with a local pub owner, who reveals the convent was in the baby business, selling them to Catholic American couples who could not have children of their own, leading the duo to embark on a journey to the U.S. to search for a grown man once known as baby Anthony.
The film is a compelling narrative of human love and loss and ultimately celebrates life.
It is both funny and sad and concerns two very different people, at different stages of their lives, who help each other and show that there is laughter even in the darkest places.
Dench, who many will recognize as M from the James Bond series and roles in films such as Queen Elizabeth I, shows her softer side in this film, giving a tour-de-force performance as Philomena, which earned her a nomination for Best Actress in a Drama Motion Picture at the Golden Globe awards. The film also was nominated in Best
Drama Motion Picture and Best Screenplay at the Golden Globe Awards.
Co-star Coogan is a perfect complement, bringing a natural chemistry on screen with wry humour lifting the pair in the film’s more sombre moments.
Coogan has been featured in numerous TV shows (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Little Britain) while his range of voices landed him roles in animated films (Despicable Me 2, Tropic Thunder).
Philomena is directed by Stephen Frears, who is known for his work in High Fidelity, The Grifters and Dangerous Liaisons.
Philomena is based on the book, The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, which was published in 2009 by Sixsmith, and adapted for the screen by Coogan and Jeff Pope.
The adaptation won the pair the award for Best Screenplay at the 70th Venice International Film Festival and the People’s Choice Award Runner-Up prize at the Toronto International Film Festival.
But the story also acted as a catalyst for thousands of adopted Irish children and their shamed mothers to come forward to tell their stories.
Many are still searching for their lost families.
Philomena is showing at the Landmark Cinema 7 on Feb. 20 at 4 and 7 p.m.
Single tickets can be pre-purchased at the gallery or the Book Shop for $13 with no exchanges or refunds, and limited single tickets for $15 may be available at the door.