LiveWire Film Critic Georgia Buckley reviews Philomena…
Based upon Martin Sixsmith’s book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, Director Stephen Frears takes us on a journey of discovery, allowing us to hear just one woman’s story from the thousands of Irish women that had their children snatched by nuns of the Magdalene convents over fifty years ago. The direction by Frears and the script adapted by both Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope (which won best screenplay at the Venice Film Festival) have allowed for a warm-hearted, comical yet occasionally heart breaking drama to be created.
Philomena tells the story of Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) and former BBC journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) as they attempt to investigate what happened to her son from whom she was forcibly separated after she became pregnant out of wedlock many decades ago. Sixsmith originally dismisses the human interest story as he appears to have a certain distaste for them; however, in desperate need of work he later agrees and begins to help Philomena on her mission to find her son. Their travels take them all the way from the Irish Convent to Washington D.C, showing the willingness of both of the characters to find Philomena’s missing son and also the formation of a beautiful bond between the two. Philomena Lee is delightfully naïve with an optimistic view of life despite the negativity she has experienced, whereas Martin is quite the opposite; an Oxford graduate with a fairly cynical outlook on life – it is these contrasting views they possess which make the bond they form such a joy to watch.
The pairing of Dench and Coogan is simply brilliant. The relationship formed by their completely contrasting characters provides audiences with light hearted comedy and fantastic onscreen chemistry. Dench’s Irish accent is right on pitch, she is perfectly cast for the leading role of Philomena as she can combine humour with serious elements which is more than necessary for this adaptation. Steve Coogan proves himself to be a versatile actor as he is frequently associated with his role as Alan Partridge, but in Philomena his character is understated yet he is still able to create a great depth within the role, showing his valuable contribution to the film.
Frears appears to have created quite the crowd pleaser as he has successfully been able to combine the difficult issue of the past behaviour of the Catholic Church and elements of English comedy into the film, which creates a fantastic balance for audiences as it means the film does not come across as too heavy for them to thoroughly enjoy. Highly Recommended!