Movie Review: Philomena


“What if he was a drug addict Martin, or… what if he was obese? I watched this documentary that said a lot of Americans are huge – what if that’s happened to him?”

The quote above is one of many questions that Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) wants to be answered from her long-lost son, Anthony. After 50 years, the Irish middle-aged woman decides to tell everybody, including her daughter, that she has another son whom she doesn’t even know where his whereabouts.

First I just want to say that any movie that highlight the connection between a mother and her children always has the potential to be a sweet tear-jerker. Because I believe that every mother have a magical connection with their children, for they have held the babies in their stomachs for nine months and give birth, even deal with the pain that I can’t even imagine.

Anyway, Philomena is one of these mother-children films, and I can say that it is a good one. And Judi Dench, who plays the role of Philomena, has successfully portrayed her as a lovely, gentle and religious mother by her amazing acting skills.

The story itself tells about the search of Philomena’s son, Anthony, with the help from a retired journalist, Martin Sixsmith. I always love any story which has journalist as the main character because I’m a journalist and I think it’s an awesome job and many great films are inspired by journalist stories.

The calamity of Philomena starts when she was a teenage and becomes pregnant out-of-wedlock. In Ireland, unmarried sex is a sin and she must spend some years working in a convent as her punishment. Most of the nuns are cruel and Philomena has only one hour to visit her son. One day, a young couple from America come to the convent and the head nun who is meretricious, Sister Hildegarde, sold Anthony. Philomena is so shocked and screams painfully because her son is taken away in front of her eyes and she can do nothing.

Steve Coogan did a good job in this film (he also co-write the screenplay), portraying a former journalist who still has rebellious and critical thinking. The interesting part for me is how Martin, an atheist and cynic, changed after spending some times with the religious and kindhearted old woman.

However, my heart breaks when Philomena finds that Anthony is already dead years ago. I really want to hug Judi Dench, or Philomena that time. She’s been dealing with the pain and shame for 50 years because she is a religious and devoted old lady. And after she gets the courage, the truth is really poignant and makes me cried.

And who deserves the most blame? It’s the wicked nun! I think Sister Hildegarde has done a very big crime: separates a mother from her son and hides the truth, even after Anthony finally tries to find his real mother and asks Hildegarde himself. How come a servant of God does such things?

I thought that Philomena would be so angry about this. But I was stunned that she could forgive the unforgivable. Watching this movie took me where I did not expect to go. For me, who is lucky enough to get raised by a lovely mother, this movie is a great reminder to be grateful and cherish every moment I have with my mom. Thanks Judi Dench, for depicting Philomena perfectly.

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