Starring: Steve Coogan, Judi Dench, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Mare Winningham, Barbara Jefford, Michelle Fairley, Peter Hermann, Ruth McCabe

Directed by: Stephen Frears

Synopsis: A world weary political journalist picks up the story of a woman’s search for her son, who was taken from her decades ago after she became pregnant and was forced to live in a convent.

I don’t know if its because I have young children, particuarly a son who is probably the same age as Philomena Lee’s child was when he was adopted against her wishes, but this film made me so angry. Not the film itself, which was really quite good, but the subject matter. Despite the film’s light hearted approach, the subject is actually as dark and despicable as anything you will see in 12 Years a Slave.

Basically, Catholic girls who copped off with boys and accidentally got pregnant were shipped off to a convent and treated like slaves by the nasty nuns. They were forced to labour at the convent for four years and were only allowed to see their children for one hour per day. That is, until a wealty family decided they wanted to pay the convent to take said child off their hands. The mother had no say in this, and would not see their child again. That is appalling isn’t it. Good old religion eh.

Philomena’s (Dench) story is remarkable in many ways, not least the fact that some how fate guided her to the answers she desired. She managed to get her story to Martin Sixsmith (Coogan) who went to the US with her. She managed to find out her son’s identity and all about his (pretty impressive achievements). I won’t say anymore so as not to ruin anything.

The film offsets the terrible subject matter by being very good natured for the most part, particularly the chemistry between Coogan and Dench. Coogan is the atheist who can’t understand how Dench can still be a devout catholic despite the horrendous crimes perpetrated by the church. Dench can’t fathom why Coogan is so cynical. I have to say I’m on Coogan’s side on this one!

Judi Dench is pretty much incapable of giving a bad performance, even hidden behind a strong Irish accent. You can sense her pain all the time, but she also gives you cause to laugh at her ‘little old lady lost’ routine. Steve Coogan isn’t in the same league as Dench, and he just seems to be playing a variation of himself to a degree, but he was fantastic none the less. Personally, I’m not religious either, so I could feel his frustration in this film.

Philomena holds much pleasure, whilst at the same time will make your blood boil, especially as there isn’t so much as an apology from the convent at the end of this unbelievable story.

3.5 clappers

About thomasjford

I like Movies and Music and most things popular culture.


  1. Wasn’t the biggest fan of this, but by now, I think that’s just an opinion only me, myself and I have. Good review.

  2. I liked this film even more than you did. And it didn’t make me angry probably because I don’t have children but I was very moved by the story. And Dench is great! And loved the way how the script was written; very sad at some times, sometimes it made you angry and there were a lot of scenes where you were laughing out loud. Very good film.

    • Yeah definitely. I think the story is shocking, and it made me angry that stuff like that happened. But the film bought a light hearted touch to it which prevented it from getting to bogged down in the subject matter.

  3. I thought this one was fantastic and I’m with you on that it made me ridiculously angry. I was totally on Coogan’s side with this. Although I think one of the film’s strongest points is that it lets you make up your own mind on how to feel, it doesn’t ram a particular agenda down your throat.

    • I agree, although the only way anyone could feel after watching it is “it was wrong”. Anyone who would come to a different conclusion is either a devout catholic or emotionally crippled! Glad you liked the movie though man!

  4. Good review, Tom!

  5. Glad you liked it. Philomena was a pleasant surprise for me, I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did. Dench and Coogan were great in it.

  6. giorge thomas

    Won’t ever watch this. Hate Steve Coogan with a passion. He has caused arguments in our household. Something about his lips. His eyes. I don’t know – I hate him! Which is such a shame because I’d really love to see this film. Do you reckon anyone would go to the trouble to blacking him out for me? Superimposing someone else’s face onto his? Changing that god-awful voice?

    • Wow, such vitriol aimed at Coogan! My wife doesn’t like him either really. She hates Alan Partridge, which I think is amazing.

      You should put your hatred behind you and watch this as it’s really good!

      • giorge thomas

        Yeah, my husband is a fan, particularly of Partridge. Maybe that’s where Coogan has gone wrong in his career – men love him and women hate him.

      • Gotta love Partridge! Not so much the film,but the I’m Alan Partridge TV show is comedy gold!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s