MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By The Weinstein Company
Directed by Stephen Frears. Starring Judi Dench, Steve Coogan
Martin Sixsmith (Coogan) is having a tough time of things. His reputation as a former BBC foreign correspondent and a media assistant/spin doctor to Prime Minister Tony Blair has been destroyed through the circulation of an unfortunate and misunderstood email. Now he is unemployed and seeking opportunities for freelance journalism.
He learns of the plight of Philomena Lee (Dench) who is trying to find the whereabouts of her 50-year-old son. When Philomena was a girl growing up in Irish Catholic Ireland she became pregnant after a fling with a young man. Shunned by family and church, she was sent to a convent during her pregnancy and the birth of her son and then made to work out her penance by working in the convent’s laundry room. Babies from the convent were occasionally sold to American couples desiring infants and, without her prior knowledge or consent, her child was taken away. (This horrible situation was also the subject of Peter Mullan’s 2002 film The Magdalene Sisters.)
Martin is an atheist and finds the idea of “evil nuns” to be a good hook for a story. He manages to pitch the idea to a publisher and soon he and Philomena hit the road to discover the truth, travelling first to the convent and then to America. Philomena is a kindhearted but plainspoken woman who doesn’t hold back her comments whenever she thinks Martin is speaking unkindly or out of turn. There are some genuine laughs evoked through their travels together.
As more of the truth about the missing son becomes known, Martin becomes more cynical as he encounters the hypocrisy of organized religion and bureaucratic cover-ups.
Philomena, on the other hand, will demonstrate a faith in Jesus Christ that is able to rise above even the most devastating revelations.
This is the best kind of Christian film, willing to deal with sin and redemption in a way that is honest about faith’s liabilities and possibilities in equal measure. It tells a fact-based story of suffering and sadness that ends in kindness and hope.
Five halos: Grace, faith and the possibilities for redemption are all a part of this charming film.
Three pitchforks: Teenage pregnancy, forced labor, mean-spirited comments, and several F-bombs (which inspired the MPAA to grant Philomena an early R rating, later appealed down to a PG-13.)
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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