Judi Dench elevates dark, true story of ‘Philomena’

Knoxville Journal-ExpressJanuary 3, 2014 


Judi Dench and Steve Coogan star in the true story “Philomena,” about a woman’s experience of having her child taken from her by nuns in a home for girls in Ireland.

ALEX BAILEY — Photo provided

  • if you go

    What: “Philomena”

    Rating: PG-13

    Where: State Theatre

    Info: www.philomenamovie.com

Dark secrets of an Irish Catholic home for girls are exposed in “Philomena,” based on a true story.

Steve Coogan portrays British journalist Martin Sixsmith, whose career remains in transition since being involved in a scandal with his prior employer. The daughter of Philomena reaches out to him to tell her mother’s story about having a child ripped from her arms while basically being held prisoner by a group of nuns.

Philomena is portrayed by Judi Dench. I think by now, we all know that Dench is a phenomenal actress who always comes through, so there’s no need to go into that. Coogan is also strong in his role.

Sixsmith is drawn to the dark side of Philomena’s story, but as he gets to know her and the truth about what happened, he is pushed further into the darkness by his editor. The film is not shy about taking shots at Republicans, journalists and the Catholic Church.

Philomena isn’t really a tragic character. She’s too happy-go-lucky and has enjoyed her life, despite the constant pain of not knowing what happened to her child. She’s just accepted the reality of what life has brought to her, made the most of it and moved on.

The film draws you in immediately and holds on to you throughout. Coogan co-wrote the film based on the book written by Sixsmith. The script peppers in humor at different intervals throughout the movie, but any account you read that says this movie is funny is just wrong.

I recommend this film because it tells a strong story. Coogan and Dench make a great on-screen duo, and Philomena’s story will touch you.

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