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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 16 February 2015
This remarkable film based on a true story is full of sadness and regret with superbly subtle and restrained performances by Judi Dench as Philomena Lee and Steve Coogan as Martin Sixsmith. Despite encountering lamentable treatment by the Catholic Church Philomena's simple faith and quiet dignity abides as she attempts to trace the whereabouts of her son who was taken from her 50 years previously. The screenplay is magnificent, achieving an admirable balance between dry humour and pathos. Steve Coogan is a revelation as he follows his excellent performance in What Maisie Knew with this finely judged portrayal of a cynical opportunist `serious' journalist who "doesn't do human interest stories" drawn towards the plight of this elderly Irish mother as he tries to resurrect his career following a high profile sacking. The gentle and incisive interchanges between Coogan and Dench are particularly outstanding and provide a fitting contrast to an underlying sadness which pervades this heart-breaking odyssey.
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on 17 February 2014
I feel I have to respond to Jude's profoundly offensive review of Philomena. Having read Martin Sixsmith's book and watched the film upon which it is based, I am frankly appalled that anybody should dismiss the film as a 'pile of pathetic anti-Catholic propaganda'. If the reviewer could bear to accept that the story is based on fact s/he would surely acknowledge, as many Catholics do, that the church has a case to answer, not least for its systemic cruelty to young women in its care and its wilful denial of information to those to whom it could have brought such comfort. The film reveals a simple but thwarted journey of discovery, albeit one that does raise issues regarding the past conduct on the part of the Catholic Church. Personally, I thought the performances of Coogan and Dench to be world class: but that, perhaps, is a matter of taste. However I am at a loss to understand the relevance of the utterly gratuitous reference to children being incinerated, and I am baffled by the abusive concluding reference to Philomena herself: …'full of hate'. The real life Philomena, as portrayed in the film and in real life, is a gentle and compassionate soul: unlike, by all accounts, the callous bigot calling her/himself Jude.
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on 3 June 2014
If you think Alan Partridge, sorry Steve Coogan is a bit of a twonk and don't like his acting then imagine you have never seen him before, buy the film because you know Judi Dench is the best actress in the UK and you will smile from ear to ear witnessing great chemistry between the two. The true story is one that had to be told and if it doesn't bring a tear to you eye you are probably not human. A classic. Also see "About Time".
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on 31 March 2014
It is a beautiful story of sadness and an inside view on the hatefulness of the catholic belief in forcing people to feel guilt whilst it is they themselves who should be seeking forgiveness for their abhorrent judgemental way of being.

Philomena Lee is a wonderful woman who actually forgave the Catholic nuns who stole her child for the twenty pieces of silver I.e,. £1000 per baby they sold to enhance the catholic coffers.
This lady is capable of giving the true love of mankind that the nuns were incapable of.

Get the tissues ready, you will need them, whilst you laugh - and cry.
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on 7 November 2013
If I were C.E.O. of Kleenex or any other paper hankie manufacturer, I would get my name down as a sponsor of this film! The fact that the poignancy of the story is lightened by moments of laughter somehow makes it all the more real, but then it is a true story.
I have always admired Judi Dench (as has everyone else) and now I have a new-found respect for Steve Coogan who is not only a superb actor but who also collaborated on the moving, subtle, tragic, comic, life-affirming script.
(A special warning to mothers not wear mascara to see this one! )
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on 13 November 2013
Philomena is based on a true story. It is about a disgraced government adviser Martin Sixsmith. He lost his job due to a serious matter. He becomes a journalist again, as he previously worked for the BBC. Immediately, he gets involved in a story depsite inital reluctance. It concerns Philomena an Irish lady, who kept a dark secret for 50 years. Philomena was abandoned in a convent as a teenager, as father disowned hearing the news of pregnancy. The conditions the girls endured were absolutely appalling and cruel. She gave birth to a child named Anthony and was cruelly forced to give up son for adoption rights. She could only spend one hour a day with her son. The film embarks on a emotional journey to locate the missing son. Will the journey end in happiness? The real truth behind son disappearance paints a hollowing and disturbing picture of the convent. The film raises serious questions. Will the truth be exposed? Will the convent be made accountable for their cruel acts?

The subject matter raised in the film is serious. There is humour seamlessly blended in the film. Philomena is a feisty character with many wisecracks throughout the film. The audience laughed out. Martin Sixsmith character is well developed. The bonding between the two leading characters is not always great, as there are conflicts on particular matters, but they do get on. The characters are believable and easily connectable, as they feel so real. Academy winner Judi Dench shows why she is an excellent actress. She plays the part of Philomena superbly and flawlessly. Steve Coogan, a comedian has adapted well to serious roles and expanding his repertoire of acting.

Phiomoena is a beautiful, emotional and poignant piece of film making. The British film industry continues to produce quality films. Philomena joins the list. The depth in storyline and characters makes stand out really well. I throughly enjoyed the film.
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on 10 April 2016
A few bad apples can spoil the barrel, they say, and there’s truth in it. But sometimes I wonder if the barrel itself, as cause of the bad apples, doesn’t need replacing. If the bad apples in this case are immoral nuns in the Roman Catholic Church, the barrel is the Church.

The Church and its ideas came into being at time when the world was radically different than it is today. Knowledge was limited, superstition rife, miracles believed in for lack of accurate explanations and understanding. The Church may have been useful and important at such a time, but why should it be now? Why all the followers, believers, devotees? If one says faith, fine. But one can have faith in anything, believe in whatever one wants, whatever is personally deemed important. The Church’s claim to be holder of some special faith is void, a historical and institutional anachronism. The claim was accepted when people knew no different, when alternatives seemed non-existent. Now they are not.

But believe in the Church if one must. If it provides comfort, solace, strength, hope, meaning, these are fine and good. But they aren’t my point. My point is what’s illustrated in the film — how bad ideas, originated by and in the Church, can cause terrible harm when administered unquestioningly by functionaries within it — in this case, rigid, dogmatic, unfeeling nuns for whom interpretations of morality in scripture were more important than actual morality based in human lives. Their dogma, created by their religion, thus may be put in the dock. No final judgement is rendered by this fine film (which is one more reason, among many, why I think it fine). Instead, the ending is deliberately kept open so that everyone can decide freely for themselves. Other judgements are for others to make. Mine is this: guilty as charged (both nuns and Church, bad apples and barrel).

Why was the child of Philomena taken from her by the wing of the Church in which she was incarcerated? Because she was declared an unfit mother. On what basis? On the fact that she was young, poor, unwed. Strike one, two, three, you’re out, you lose. No child, no motherhood.

But what the nuns and Church did not understand or care to, evidently, is that Philomena loved her baby. She loved motherhood too. She loved being a mother as much as she loved her baby. Love saturated her. Her child meant the world to her. And this love, faithful and enduring, never wavered and died.

Thus her tragedy and heartbreak.

The journalist who helps tell Philomena’s story symbolises a kind of secular conscience. He wants answers, evidence, accountability, justice. He wants villainy exposed, judged, condemned. He wants those responsible for Philomena’s suffering and loss brought to book. Which is why he’s fearless and relentless. The deeper he digs into her story the angrier he becomes. For Philomena her loss is always personal. For Martin Sixsmith, the journalist, it’s also political, and his mission becomes one of exposing the dirty politics and hypocrisies of the Church. By the end he succeeds. He locates those responsible for the injustices done to Philomena.

Philomena herself is more ambivalent. She’s a victim, true. She acknowledges it. But her journey transcends politics. Her son, deceased in adulthood, cannot be brought back. Even justice cannot do this. There are no miracles. So in a way justice is moot, pointless, futile. At least for her. Her loss is personal, so she can’t or won’t look beyond it. For her there’s no institutional evil in the Church per se. Others can make this claim for themselves if they wish. She will not.

So her story, thus open-ended, remains interesting, complicated, controversial. In some people the film touches a nerve because it goes deep into their interpretations of themselves and the world, including the Church. Thus for them a lot may ride on these interpretations. That’s my feeling at least from reading some of the commentary in other reviews of the film. So let me just state my view that civility and decency are civilised virtues and values, and that some among the religious would do well to remember this.

Since the film allows me to judge, I will.

Philomena should have had a better life with the child she loved. They should have shared their lives together (and we know from the film that the son never forgot his origins, and by extension never stopped thinking about his mother). Instead, both child and that better life were taken from her by a Grand Inquisitor called the Roman Catholic Church.

Crime doesn’t pay, they say, but I also wonder about that too sometimes.
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"Philomena" is based on a true story about an Irish woman searching for the toddler son she gave up for adoption 50 years ago. She was forced to "atone for her sins", while the Catholic Church sold her son to Americans who paid a thousand pounds for her child. She was part of a group of young girls who were brought to a Catholic home run by brutal nuns who worked these women to the bone and sold their children.

Dame Judi Dench, plays Philomena, who kept her secret for 50'years. She finally told her daughter, and her story was told to a journalist. Martin Sixsmith, played by Steve Coogan. Hectares on the task of finding the son, Anthony. They journey to the United States, in search, and this is Philomena's story. Philomena, a middle class woman, and Martin Sixsmith, who worked for the Government have different tastes and differing methods if finding the truth.

Philomena is a good soul, a strong Catholic, and Martin is a sarcastic, smug man. They clash, but quickly change their tone. This is a film that will cause many tears, but, is full of search and discovery and the times to face the truth. A lively film about a woman searching for her son, and all the while wondering if he ever thought of her.

Recommended. prisrob 04-15-14
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on 17 December 2013
What an excellent film this is? It's compassionate and witty but also ultimately shocking. I would guess that most who watched this had previously seen the `Magdalene Sisters, `which was also a great watch.
The 'Magdalene institutions' were a very big thing, both here, in America and also in Europe - from the 1750's to almost the present day . In the UK some 30,000 young women were sent to the `laundries' for hard labour to repent for their so called sins or that their parents simply disowned or couldn't afford them. Once there they were imprisoned in the system, some were abused - mentally, physically and also sexually.
The Irish Government and Catholic Church issued a grovelling apology and acceptance of their crimes this year - 2013, after years of being pressed for the truth. It's very hard to comprehend but the last `Irish laundry' closed as recently as 1996.
History aside, this is a great little film. Possibly Cogan at his best and Judy Dench once again elicits all of her vast array of acting skills in portraying this particularly devout character.
A must watch in my opinion.
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on 1 August 2014
"Philomena" has already won multiple awards at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Venice Film Festival this year, and created tons of critical buzz in the process. Judi Dench and Steve Coogan have been praised for their fantastic performances, and deservingly so. Not only is this one of the most fun and interesting movies of the year, it also managed to surprise me in every way imaginable.

The film centers on Philomena (Judi Dench), a woman whose son was taken away from her decades ago after she became pregnant and was forced to live in a convent. Martin (Steve Coogan), a struggling journalist, gets wind of her story and decides to help her search for her long-lost son. Their journey together is fascinating, with a fantastic balance of comedy and drama.

With breathtaking cinematography, and Oscar-worthy performances from the leads, I couldn't recommend this film enough. Rated PG-13 for language, "Philomena" is a wonderful movie experience.
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