When former journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) is dismissed from the Labour Party in disgrace, he is at a loss as to what do. That changes when a young Irish woman approaches him about a story of her mother, Philomena Lee (Dame Judi Dench), who had her son taken away when she was a teenage inmate of a Catholic convent. Martin arranges a magazine assignment about her search for him that eventually leads to America. Along the way, Martin and Philomena discover as much about each other as about her son's fate. Furthermore, both find their basic beliefs challenged.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Having lived the mother-baby home experience in Ireland (born at another of the Sacred Heart homes, Bessboro, in Cork in 1960, and trafficked to the US in 1961) and working as an advocate for the rights of adopted people and survivors of Irish Magdalene Laundries for more than twenty years, I'm always prepared to be either underwhelmed or angry at the film industry's ineptitude with subjects like this, I have to say I have not been as pleasantly surprised since Mike Leigh's excellent 'Secrets and Lies' and Peter Mullan's superb 'The Magdalene Sisters'. Frears, Coogan, Dench et al give Philomena's very true story such punch, truth and pathos, a heady accomplishment given the subject matter.
I look forward to the film's US release and urge my fellow 'Banished Babies' to see it, although I recommend going with support as it's very triggering. Let's hope Philomena's strength and tenacity, so powerfully portrayed by Dame Judy, coax more mothers living in shame and denial to reach out to their lost children before it's too late.
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