Philomena (film)

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Philomena
Philomena poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byStephen Frears
Produced byGabrielle Tan
Steve Coogan
Tracey Seaward
Written bySteve Coogan
Jeff Pope
StarringJudi Dench
Steve Coogan
Music byAlexandre Desplat
CinematographyRobbie Ryan
Editing byValerio Bonelli
StudioPathé
BBC Films
British Film Institute
Canal+
Cine+
Baby Cow Productions
Magnolia Mae Films
Distributed byThe Weinstein Company
Release dates
  • 31 August 2013 (2013-08-31) (Venice Film Festival)
  • 1 November 2013 (2013-11-01) (United Kingdom)
  • 27 November 2013 (2013-11-27) (United States)
  • 8 January 2014 (2014-01-08) (France)
Running time95 minutes[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
United States
France
LanguageEnglish
Box office$36,997,645[1]
 
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Philomena
Philomena poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byStephen Frears
Produced byGabrielle Tan
Steve Coogan
Tracey Seaward
Written bySteve Coogan
Jeff Pope
StarringJudi Dench
Steve Coogan
Music byAlexandre Desplat
CinematographyRobbie Ryan
Editing byValerio Bonelli
StudioPathé
BBC Films
British Film Institute
Canal+
Cine+
Baby Cow Productions
Magnolia Mae Films
Distributed byThe Weinstein Company
Release dates
  • 31 August 2013 (2013-08-31) (Venice Film Festival)
  • 1 November 2013 (2013-11-01) (United Kingdom)
  • 27 November 2013 (2013-11-27) (United States)
  • 8 January 2014 (2014-01-08) (France)
Running time95 minutes[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
United States
France
LanguageEnglish
Box office$36,997,645[1]

Philomena is a 2013 British comedy-drama film directed by Stephen Frears. It was screened in the main competition section at the 70th Venice International Film Festival[2][3] where Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope won the award for Best Screenplay.[4] At the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival it was awarded the People's Choice Award Runner-Up prize.[5]

The film is based on the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by Martin Sixsmith, which tells the true story of Philomena Lee's 50-year-long search for her son. The book focuses more, as the title suggests, on the life Michael/Anthony had after his adoption.

Plot[edit]

Journalist Martin Sixsmith has just lost his job as a Labour government adviser, and isn't sure whether to take up running or write a book about Russian history. Meanwhile, Philomena Lee confides to her daughter that, 50 years earlier, she had given birth to a son in Ireland, but because she was not married she had been forced to give him up for adoption. Soon after, Martin meets the daughter at a party. Although he initially scorns human interest stories, he needs work and an editor wants the story. He meets Philomena, and they start to investigate what had become of her son.

Philomena had given birth to her son Anthony at the convent in Roscrea, was forced to sign away parental rights to her son – but still cared for him until he was adopted at age three – and worked as an indentured laundry lady. Her best friend at the convent had a daughter, Mary; the children were best friends as well. A couple had come to the convent to adopt Mary, and had taken away both children because they were inseparable.

Martin and Philomena begin their search for her son at the convent. The nuns are polite and welcoming, but they have no information. The adoption records had been lost in a fire years earlier, they said. Drowning his frustration at a pub, Martin meets a young man who tells him rumours he had heard from the old-timers: the convent deliberately destroyed the records in a bonfire, and that they had sold the children to adoptive parents, mostly in the United States.

As a journalist and political adviser, one of Martin's specialties is the US, where he has numerous contacts. Although they reach a dead end in Ireland, Martin's contacts in the US might be able to help. Searching passport and other records, Martin finds that Philomena's son had been adopted by Doc and Marge Hess, who renamed him Michael Hess. He grew up to be a high-ranking official in the Reagan administration. He was also gay, and closeted living with his partner, Peter Olson. He had died nine years earlier, of AIDS.

Martin reluctantly informs Philomena of his findings – but they press on, to find people who had known him. From old photographs, Martin realises he had actually met Anthony/Michael when Martin was working for the BBC. They visit Michael's co-adoptee Mary, who tells them that their adoptive mother had been loving, but their father and brothers had not shown love for Michael. Mary gives them the name of Michael's most serious boyfriend, but doesn't tell them what Philomena most wanted to know: whether he had ever tried to find his birth mother.

After avoiding Martin's attempts to contact him, Michael's former partner finally agrees to talk to Philomena. He says that Michael had always wondered about his birth mother, and had visited the convent in Ireland to find out more about her – but the nuns lied and told him that they had lost contact with her. He says that Michael's dying wish was to be buried in the convent's graveyard, in hopes that his mother might eventually find the message on his grave stone.

The story ends where it begins: at the convent. Martin confronts one nun who had been around when Philomena's son had been taken from her. The nun is unrepentant, saying that losing her son was Philomena's penance for the sin of fornication. Philomena, on the other hand, forgives the nun. Philomena then locates her son Anthony/Michael's grave and reads the stone.

Cast[edit]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Philomena received mostly favorable comments from reviewers upon release. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a score of 92% based on reviews from 140 critics, with the consensus: "Based on a powerful true story and led by note-perfect performances from Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, Philomena offers a profoundly affecting drama for adult filmgoers of all ages."[6] At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 76 based on 41 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim" but is "torn between contrasting approaches".[7]

Kelly Torrance of the Washington Times found that the film "ultimately feels false", with the filmmakers succumbing to the temptation to focus on the “lessons” the story holds at the expense of the human story itself.[8] Justin Chang, of Variety called the film a "smug but effective middlebrow crowdpleaser". While noting Dench's "fine, dignified performance", he observed that much of the humor here comes at the expense of Dench's character. "[I]t’s hard not to wonder if the writers are simply scoring points off [Philomena].[9]

Accusations of anti-Catholicism[edit]

New York Post film critic Kyle Smith has characterized the film as "another hateful and boring attack on Catholics."[10]. Smith has however denied writing such a line, attributing that language to the newspaper title editor [11]. In response to this review, film maker Harvey Weinstein posted a full-page ad in the New York Times protesting this characterization. Smith has accused Harvey Weinstein of making numerous anti-Catholic films, including The Magdalene Sisters (2002), The Butcher Boy (1998), Priest (1995) and Philomena.[12]

Anachronisms[edit]

Sister Hildegard McNulty, the antagonist in the movie, is depicted as having met with journalist Sixsmith after he started working on the story. McNulty died in 1995, and Sixsmith started his investigation only in 2004. The final scene where a wheelchair-bound McNulty chastizes Philomena Lee for carnality is also poetic license.[13]

Box office[edit]

As of December 15, 2013, the film has grossed $11,019,000 in North America and $17,267,702 in other territories, for a combined gross of $28,286,702.[1]

Accolades[edit]

AwardCategoryRecipients and nomineesResult
AACTA Awards[14]Best Actress in a Leading RoleJudi DenchPending
Alliance of Women Film Journalists[15]Actress Defying Age and AgismJudi DenchNominated
Best ActressJudi DenchNominated
Best Adapted ScreenplaySteve Coogan and Jeff PopeNominated
British Academy Film Awards[16]Best Actress in a Leading RoleJudi DenchPending
Best Adapted ScreenplaySteve Coogan and Jeff PopePending
Best FilmPhilomenaPending
Outstanding British FilmPhilomenaPending
British Independent Film Awards[17]Best ActorSteve CooganNominated
Best ActressJudi DenchNominated
Best British Independent FilmPhilomenaNominated
Best ScreenplaySteve Coogan and Jeff PopeNominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association[18]Best ActressJudi DenchPending
Best Adapted ScreenplaySteve Coogan and Jeff PopePending
Chicago Film Critics Association[19]Best Adapted ScreeplaySteve Coogan and Jeff PopeNominated
Golden Globe Awards[20]Best Actress in a Drama Motion PictureJudi DenchPending
Best Drama Motion PicturePhilomenaPending
Best ScreenplaySteve Coogan and Jeff PopePending
Hamptons International Film Festival[21]Best Narrative FeatureStephen FrearsWon
London Film Critics' Circle[22]Actress of the YearJudi DenchPending
British Actor of the YearSteve CooganPending
British Actress of the YearJudi DenchPending
British Film of the YearPhilomenaPending
Screenwriter of the YearSteve Coogan and Jeff PopePending
Phoenix Film Critics Society[23]Best ActressJudi DenchNominated
Best Adapted ScreenplaySteve Coogan and Jeff PopeNominated
Best FilmPhilomenaNominated
San Francisco Film Critics Circle[24]Best ActressJudi DenchNominated
Best Adapted ScreenplaySteve Coogan and Jeff PopeNominated
Satellite Awards[25]Best Actress in a Motion PictureJudi DenchPending
Best Adapted ScreenplaySteve Coogan and Jeff PopePending
Best FilmPhilomenaPending
Best Original ScoreAlexandre DesplatPending
Screen Actors Guild Awards[26]Best Female Actor in a Leading RoleJudi DenchPending
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association[27]Best ActressJudi DenchNominated
Best Adapted ScreenplaySteve Coogan and Jeff PopeNominated
Toronto International Film Festival[28]People's Choice Award First Runner UpStephen FrearsWon
Venice Film Festival[29]Golden LionPhilomenaNominated
Best ScreenplaySteve Coogan and Jeff PopeWon
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association[30]Best ActressJudi DenchNominated
Best Portrayal of Washington, D.C.PhilomenaNominated
Women Film Critics Circle[31]Best ActressJudi DenchWon
Best Female Images in a MoviePhilomenaWon
Best Movie About WomenPhilomenaWon

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Philomena (2013)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 1 November 2013. 
  2. ^ "Venezia 70". labiennale. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  3. ^ "Venice film festival 2013: the full line-up". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  4. ^ "Official Awards of the 70th Venice Film Festival". Retrieved 8 September 2013. 
  5. ^ "TIFF 2013: 12 Years a Slave wins film fest's top prize". Toronto Star, 15 September 2013.
  6. ^ "Philomena (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  7. ^ "Philomena". Metacritic. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  8. ^ Torrance, Kelly. "Philomena", Washington Times, November 28, 2013
  9. ^ Chang, Justin. "Venice Film Review: ‘Philomena’", Variety, August 31, 2013
  10. ^ Smith, Kyle (21 November 2013). "‘Philomena’ another hateful and boring attack on Catholics". New York Post. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  11. ^ http://kylesmithonline.com/
  12. ^ Smith, Kyle (7 December 2013). "Harvey Weinstein’s ‘Philomena’ attack ad". New York Post. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  13. ^ Sneed, Tierna. "'Philomena' Draws Catholic Backlash". Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  14. ^ Frater, Patrick (13 December 2013). "Australian Awards Laud 'American Hustle'". Variety. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  15. ^ "2013 EDA Award Nominees". Alliance of Women Film Journalists. 11 December 2013. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  16. ^ Reynolds, Simon; Harris, Jamie (8 January 2014). "BAFTA Film Awards 2014 - nominations in full". Digital Spy. Retrieved 8 January 2014. 
  17. ^ "Nominations 2013". British Independent Film Awards. 11 November 2013. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  18. ^ Gray, Tim (December 16, 2013). "Critics Choice Awards: '12 Years,' 'American Hustle' Earn 13 Nominations Each". Variety. Retrieved December 16, 2013. 
  19. ^ "'12 Years A Slave' Leads In Chicago Film Critics Association Award Nominations". IndieWire. 13 December 2013. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  20. ^ Reynolds, Simon (12 December 2013). "Golden Globes nominations 2013: Movies list in full". Digital Spy. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  21. ^ Smith, Nigel M (14 October 2013). "'Philomena' and 'Desert Runners' Nab Audience Award Honors at Hamptons International Film Festival". IndieWire. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  22. ^ "London Critics' Circle Announces 2014 Film Awards Nominations". London Film Critics Circle. 17 December 2013. Retrieved 17 December 2013. 
  23. ^ "Phoenix Film Critics Society 2013 Award Nominations". Phoenix Film Critics Society. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  24. ^ Lodge, Guy (December 13, 2013). "2013 San Francisco Film Critics Circle nominations". HitFix. Retrieved December 14, 2013. 
  25. ^ "2013 Nominations". International Press Academy. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  26. ^ Breznican, Anthony (11 December 2013). "SAG Award Noms: '12 Years a Slave' leads while 'The Butler' surprises". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  27. ^ Venhaus, Lynn (9 December 2013). "St. Louis Film Critics choose their award nominees". Belleville News-Democrat. Retrieved 10 December 2013. 
  28. ^ "TIFF 2013: 12 Years a Slave wins film fest's top prize". Toronto Star. 15 September 2013. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  29. ^ "Official Awards of the 70th Venice Film Festival". Retrieved 8 September 2013. 
  30. ^ Tapley, Kristopher (8 December 2013). "'12 Years a Slave' and 'Her' lead the way with Washington D.C. critics nominations". HitFix. Retrieved 9 December 2013. 
  31. ^ Tapley, Kristopher (16 December 2013). "2013 Women Film Critics Circle winners". HitFix. Retrieved 17 December 2013. 

External links[edit]