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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 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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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 28 July 2014
Based on a true story Dame Judie at her best .
We all know the hardships and the many unjust situations that happend in Ireland in the 50'/60's
The Magdalen Laundry and this story is one that is spawned by such a situation.
By now every one knows this story but what I liked about this was the main character's ability to accept and not to bash
her religion, and just find the truth. Which I have to say as one who shares her religion. made me angry and dismayed on finding the truth in the film.
Great movie enjoyed it thoroughly and if you have read any of my previous reviews you will know my wife is the gauge I set these genre of films on….In this case hers is "freeze the movie till I get back…Then I know she likes it!
The one reservation I have is Steve Coogan….comedian,,,,well maybe….actor,,,,,no. I kept waiting for him to come in with an Alan Partridge or whoever impersonation….But then again…he did produce/direct or have a hand it so..say no more.!
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on 21 December 2014
When you get behind the whole point of this Film, It does not show The Catholic Church In a very good light, In fact In between 1958 and approx early 1970's the good nuns of various Fallen Ladies were allowed to take their babies away and sell them usually to practising catholics, mostly Americans.
Dench plays a woman who chases her child for 50 years and she Is shunned on many occasions by the Catholic Church and frankly It's horrendous. Dench as usual puts In a superb shift, but I'm afraid Steve Coogan doesn't Impress at all, a little out of his depth one might say.
I'm afraid to say It but In my view If you think up to 45 years ago this was allowed to go on, Terrible, but Dench leads the film from the front and that helps It get the 4 th Star.
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VINE VOICEon 1 June 2014
Sadly this is not only a true story; but I know of other women this has happened to.

Having and R/C mother and a Protestant father, I have attended both churches and won't have anything to do with either of them anymore.

This film just re-confirms the abusive power of the Roman Catholic Church.

Beautifully acted and first class photography too.
Interesting role for Steve Coogan - I hate his TV shows with the Partridge character with a vengeance.
Coogan comes over as an upper-class self centred unpleasant idiot - who is forced by circumstances to change his style and write about real people instead.

he comes over as very genuinely concerned, but more so because of his journalistic past and looking for the truth when given the run around.
It takes a while to believe he cares for the characters experiences; but what comes over very clearly is the absolute evil that the Irish R/C church forced on innocent people.

Well done that man.
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on 2 May 2015
This film got rave reviews when it was released and, on watching it, it's easy to see why. Based on a true story, it is a heartbreaking account of love, loss and redemption, beautifully acted by Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, who were superb together. Laughter through tears is a wonderful emotion and there are so few films that are able to take you there - but this one does and effortlessly. I don't like to write spoilers so I'll just say that, if you haven't had a chance to watch this yet, it is a must see and definitely one for your DVD collection.
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on 11 April 2015
My wife (not easy to please) and I enjoyed this film. The two leading actors were splendid and the dialogue was crisp and often very funny. I did feel sometimes that Philomena was too naive - she had after all been a nurse for many years, and she was on the ball with homosexuality, (her Irish accent slipped from time to time, by the way), but over all she was a delight, and Steve Coogan was the perfect foil to her.
I have two reservations; i I don't think I am likely to watch it again; ii unusual turns of events became predictable, almost as if the plot was crying wolf.
Recommended with minor reservations.
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on 29 May 2014
I read the book before seeing the film which made for a very confusing film watch. The film is totally different to the book which made me keep saying to my husband 'thats not what happened in the book' every 5 minutes much to his annoyance. I know this has been dramatised for the film, but the book has the same cover as the DVD ?? I found the comical relationship between the 2 main characters excellent, many a laugh at a situation that should have shed a tear. You cant fail to not enjoy this film, I enjoyed the behind the scenes with the real Philomena just as much too
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on 25 April 2014
I usually wait until new titles come down in price but as this had so many good reviews and awards I thought I would send for it.However, I have to admit although it was good I was slightly disappointed in it. I did find the actual dvd played up several times in the beginning and I wasn't sure if it was the actual dvd or my player which has only been used a few times so that didn't help.
I have adopted children so the subject was of interest to me but maybe it was because I am not well but I didn't find it that good, normally a subject like that would have me in floods of tears but this didn't. All in all I was very disappointed
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on 27 April 2014
Anyone who watched the real Philomena being interviewed will know what a courageous and inspiring person she is and Judy Dench's magnificent portrayal of her character is equally courageous and inspiring. The casting of her co-star Steve Coogan playing the part of the journalist, Martin Sixmith, who led Philomena to find her long lost son was something of a surprise to many but the chemistry between these two make a perfect partnership in this emotive and thought provoking story which will enthral you from beginning to end. Be prepared to cry a little but, don't worry, you will laugh too and, at the end of the journey through London, Ireland, New York and finally back to the tranquility of Ireland, you will feel exhausted but uplifted at the same time. This film is definitely a keeper.
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