As a big fan of anything that Judi Dench is in, I was eager to see “Philomena.” It is based on the true story of Philomena Lee’s search for her son. The film begins in the 1950s. A very innocent Philomena has a child out of wedlock. Left at the convent by her father, she is treated very severely by the nuns. She works in the laundry to pay for her and her child’s keep. Without her consent, he is adopted by an American couple.
She kept the secret of his birth from her daughter for fifty years. Eventually, she convinces her mother to search for her son. With the help of Martin Sixsmith, a journalist/writer, Philomena travels to the US and continues her quest.
“Philomena” is a well-written and well-acted movie. Steve Coogan plays Sixsmith, a man who does not believe in the Church or God. Philomena in spite of her great loss harbors no animosity against the Church or the sisters at the convent.
What could have been a very soapy story, “Philomena” rises above maudlin sentimentality. Dench, Coogan, and director Stephen Frears have created an engrossing story of great loss and great forgiveness.
Two other movies with similar themes of children mistreated by the Church are “Magdalene Sisters, also set in Ireland, and “Oranges and Sunshine,” which is also a true story set in England and Australia.