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home : columnists and contributors : columnists and contributors February 6, 2016

2/26/2014 12:01:00 AM
Movie Review: Philomena
Cynthia Morse Zumbaugh


This beautiful little movie is easily one of the best in recent memory. As it is "based on a true story," it is sometimes a little difficult to watch because this was not a particular nice history to recall. Then again, we have no idea what parts of the story are true and what are Hollywood embellishments.

What we do know for certain is what a glorious actress Judi Dench is; I don't know how you could watch this performance and not be touched. The story is brilliantly told, never allowing the tale to become maudlin but yet keeping the humanity of the lead characters honest.

This is the tale of Philomena (Dench,) an Irish Catholic girl who is forced/cajoled/persuaded to give away her child at a convent/home in Ireland in the early sixties. Years later, her daughter approaches Martin Sixsmith, a cynical journalist, and shares her mother's story and he and Philomena embark on a mission to find Philomena's son.

This movie would so easily have become soap opera material, but the excellent script and the outstanding performances make the movie so much more than what it would have been in lesser hands. From the direction of Stephen Frears to the script by Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope and the real Martin Sixsmith to the performances by Dench and by Steve Coogan as Sixsmith, there is nothing to dislike about this movie. They even managed to tell the story in a little over an hour and a half; they didn't try or need to make it an epic. I was concerned before seeing it that it would be depressing, but that really isn't the case.

Rated PG13, there is no sex or nudity, there is some discussion about sex and there is a kind of graphic birthing scene. Very little profanity, but this is an adult movie and kids would be bored to tears. For adults, I couldn't recommend it more. I'm glad I don't have to vote for the Academy Awards; I have seen all five best actress performances and they all gave award worthy performances; Dench is definitely near the top of that field.


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