Friday, November 15, 2013

MUST-WATCH FRIDAY: Philomena

KISS/Modern Tempted author Heidi Rice alerts you to a small sparkling gem of a movie currently doing the rounds in the UK starring national treasure Judi Dench and comedian Steve Coogan.

So, I'm going to be diverting from my usual prime-beefcake-appreciation-society film selection policy (well, unless you count comedian Steve Cogan who is rather cute in a very sarcastically British sort of way) to talk about this small, heart-wrenching and yet surprisingly uplifting comedy-drama based on the harrowing true story of an Irish woman called Philomena Lee.

Taken from the book by journalist Martin Sixsmith (here played by Coogan - who also wrote the script) called The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, the premise is one that has become all-too-familiar in the wake of recent revelations about the history of the Catholic Church in 20th-century Ireland. Philomena was a pregnant and unmarried teenager, who was incarcerated in a convent and forced into virtual slave labour in the Rosecrae laundry in the 1950s. Only allowed to see her son for one hour a day, Philomena nonetheless is devoted to her child, only to have him ripped away from her - without even a farewell - when he is effectively sold to adoptive parents in the US age three. Fifty years after his birth though, and now living in London, Philomena tells her daughter of the son she has never forgotten and with Sixsmith's rather reluctant help sets about tracking him down.

Now, as I'm sure you're thinking, there's enough heart-rending drama there already for about six movies, but believe me that's only the start of the emotional rollercoaster ride which is delivered with pathos and no small-amount of humour and humanism as Philomena and Sixsmith travel to America to discover what happened to that 'lost child'. I'm not going to tell you what they find, but surfice it to say it's extremely moving and yet also somehow cathartic (and may make you want to mug a certain nun!) but what I really have to applaud this drama for is that it doesn't dwell on the many wrongs inflicted on Philomena but rather the way in which she has risen above them, to the extent that she can forgive the people who have claimed the moral high ground all along while doing sickeningly cruel things to the people they consider their inferiors. 

Judi Dench is a bit of a national treasure here in the UK and watching this movie - in which she plays Philomena as both a little annoying, but also so generous, kind and sweetly inspirational - you can see why. Coogan bravely gives himself the much less sympathetic role of Sixsmith, who's journey takes him convincingly from cynical sacked political spin-doctor to a man who actually embraces the "human interest" story he was once so distainful of - because he discovers that Philomena really is as brave and good as she appears.

There is also one glorious scene which us hopeless romantics will enjoy where Philomena describes in great detail to the bored Sixsmith a romance novel she has been reading. It's obviously supposed to be a Mills and Boon (although one I suspect she must have gotten from a charity shop because you wouldn't find a plot like that nowadays) and most of the audience will laugh sarcastically at the ludicrous twists and turns of the story she describes. But what I took away from it, and what Dench's character absolutely implies, is that she has found this novel uplifting, entertaining, and a wonderful escape from the difficulties in her everyday life (that are about to get a whole lot more difficult). So really, mission accomplished thank you very much!



See this movie, it's beautifully crafted, bravely performed and has a heartfelt message that anyone with an ounce of human feeling in their soul would have to embrace. How it managed to get an R rating in the US is anyone's guess (I must have somehow missed that torture-porn full-frontal nude scene!).

Heidi is currently pimping her cute and Christmassy Entangled Publishing novella Tis the Season to Get Lucky - which is out now on ebook for a ridiculously cheep and cheerful 99c - on a blog tour. You can check out the stops on her Twitter feed (@HeidiRomRice), her FB or her blog to be in with a chance to win prizes. And watch out for her uber-sexy first Cosmo Red-Hot Read, 10 Ways to Handle the Best Man coming to an ebook store near you in Jan 2014.

3 comments:

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    Enjoy watching!

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  2. I totally agree with your review, Heidi. This was an exceptional film and story. Hard to believe it is true, which makes me shudder. I wanted Philomena to tell Anthony's (Michael) sister about her mother whether she asked or not, but that was just me.
    I also would use the term National Treasure (UK) for Dame Judi.

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