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Film: Review - Philomena (12A)

MARIA DUARTE watches a moving tale of Catholic church abuse and a mother’s hunt for her son

Philomena (12A)
Directed by Stephen Frears
Five stars

Be prepared to laugh, cry and be equally outraged by this compelling story about loss, faith, redemption and the scandalous abuses perpetrated by the Catholic church.

The film is inspired by the true tale of Irishwoman Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) who, in her seventies, enlisted the help of former BBC foreign correspondent Martin Sixsmith to find her son Anthony. 

He was taken from her when he was three by nuns at a convent in Co Tipperary and sold for adoption to a US family. Philomena then spent the next 50 years vainly trying to discover his whereabouts.

Directed by Stephen Frears and produced, co-written and starring Steve Coogan, Philomena walks a fine line between comedy and full-blown tragedy.

Though devoid of sentimentality, it’s impossible to remain unmoved by Philomena’s harrowing story although she was one of thousands of young single mothers who had their children snatched by the church in the 1950s and sold to the highest bidder.

Dench and Coogan make an odd but inspired couple. The latter, unusually restrained, gives an impressive performance as Sixsmith while Dench delivers one of her finest portrayals to date.

Riddled all her life with the guilt and shame of being an unwed teenage mum, what shines through is Philomena’s unwavering religious faith and her extraordinary capacity to forgive the heinous behaviour of the cruel, callous and certainly unchristian nuns.

A truly awe-inspiring story.

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