Philomena (film)

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Philomena
Philomena poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byStephen Frears
Produced by
Screenplay bySteve Coogan
Jeff Pope
Based onThe Lost Child of Philomena Lee 
by Martin Sixsmith
StarringJudi Dench
Steve Coogan
Music byAlexandre Desplat
CinematographyRobbie Ryan
Edited byValerio Bonelli
Production
  company
Distributed byThe Weinstein Company
Release date(s)
  • 31 August 2013 (2013-08-31) (Venice)
  • 1 November 2013 (2013-11-01) (United Kingdom)
  • 22 November 2013 (2013-11-22) (United States)
  • 8 January 2014 (2014-01-08) (France)
Running time98 minutes[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
United States
France
LanguageEnglish
Budget$12 million[2]
Box office$100.1 million[2]
 
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Philomena
Philomena poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byStephen Frears
Produced by
Screenplay bySteve Coogan
Jeff Pope
Based onThe Lost Child of Philomena Lee 
by Martin Sixsmith
StarringJudi Dench
Steve Coogan
Music byAlexandre Desplat
CinematographyRobbie Ryan
Edited byValerio Bonelli
Production
  company
Distributed byThe Weinstein Company
Release date(s)
  • 31 August 2013 (2013-08-31) (Venice)
  • 1 November 2013 (2013-11-01) (United Kingdom)
  • 22 November 2013 (2013-11-22) (United States)
  • 8 January 2014 (2014-01-08) (France)
Running time98 minutes[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
United States
France
LanguageEnglish
Budget$12 million[2]
Box office$100.1 million[2]

Philomena is a 2013 drama film directed by Stephen Frears, based on the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by journalist Martin Sixsmith. Starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, it tells the true story of Philomena Lee's 50-year-long search for her son.

The film has been recognised by several international film awards. Coogan and Jeff Pope won Best Screenplay at the 70th Venice International Film Festival.[3][4][5] It was also awarded the People's Choice Award Runner-Up prize at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.[6] The film was nominated in four categories at the 86th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress for Dench, Best Adapted Screenplay for Coogan and Pope, and Best Original Score for Desplat. It was also nominated for four BAFTA Awards and three Golden Globes.

Plot[edit]

Journalist Martin Sixsmith in London has lost his job as a Labour government adviser, and is contemplating writing a book on Russian history. He is approached at a party by the daughter of Philomena Lee. She suggests that he write a story about her mother, who was forced to give up her baby boy, Anthony, fifty years ago. Although he initially scorns the idea of writing a human interest story, he eventually meets with Philomena and after hearing her story, he decides to investigate further.

After a tryst with a young man at a fair in 1951, Philomena became pregnant and was sent by her father to Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea in Ireland. After giving birth, she was forced to work in their laundry, seven days a week, for four years to pay off the cost of her stay. One day she discovered that the nuns had given her son to a couple for adoption, without warning or a chance for Philomena to say goodbye. Philomena kept her lost son a secret from her family for fifty years, but she visited the convent periodically to try to find him. She had one small photograph of him. The nuns repeatedly told her that they were unable to help her.

Martin and Philomena begin their search by trying one more time at the convent. The nuns are once again polite but unhelpful, and claim that the adoption records were lost in a fire years earlier. Later at a pub, the locals tell Martin that the convent deliberately destroyed the records in a bonfire, and that most of the children were sold for £1000 each to rich Americans.

Martin's enquiries reach a dead end in Ireland, but he receives a promising lead from America, and he invites Philomena to accompany him on a trip to the US to search for Anthony. His contacts there help him discover that Anthony was adopted by Doc and Marge Hess, who had renamed him Michael. He grew up to be a lawyer and senior official in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations, prompting Martin to realise that he had met Michael several years earlier while on a visit to America. They also learn that he had died eight years earlier.

Although distraught, Philomena decides that she wants to meet people who knew Michael. They visit a former colleague of Michael's and discover that Michael was gay and died of AIDS. They also visit his sister Mary, who was adopted at the same time from the convent, and learn about his lover Pete Olssen. After repeatedly avoiding Martin's attempts to contact him, Pete finally agrees to talk to Philomena when she turns up at his door. He shows Philomena some videos of his life with Michael. To Martin and Philomena's surprise, they see footage of Michael, dated shortly before he died, at the convent in Ireland, and Pete explains that Michael had privately wondered about his birth mother all his life, and, in his final months, had travelled to Ireland to try to find out about her. Martin and Philomena are shocked to learn that the nuns had told him that his mother had abandoned him and that they had lost contact with her. They are also surprised to learn that Pete had defied Michael's adoptive family's wishes and had Michael buried in the convent's graveyard.

The story ends where it begins: at the convent. Against Philomena's pleas, an irate Martin storms into the quarters and confronts a nun, Sister Hildegarde McNulty, who had been present when Michael had visited, accusing her of lying to a dying man about something that was so important to both him and his mother. Sister Hildegarde is unrepentant, saying that losing her son was Philomena's penance for the sin of fornication. Martin tells Hildegarde that what she did was un-Christian, and that she should apologize, but is astonished when Philomena instead chooses to forgive the nun of her own volition. Philomena then asks to see her son's grave. Martin tells her he has chosen not to publish the story, but Philomena tells him to go ahead because "people should know what happened here."

Cast[edit]

Soundtrack[edit]

The score of the film is composed by Alexandre Desplat.[7]

Philomena (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by Alexandre Desplat
Released25 November 2013 (2013-11-25)
GenreFilm score
Length51:06
LabelDecca
ProducerAlexandre Desplat
Alexandre Desplat chronology
Venus in Fur
(2013)
Philomena
(2013)
The Monuments Men
(2014)

All music composed by Alexandre Desplat.

No.TitleLength
1."Philomena"  2:53
2."Martin"  1:38
3."Birth"  3:00
4."Laundry"  1:59
5."Adoption"  3:37
6."Reminiscence"  1:15
7."Airport"  1:48
8."Landing in USA"  3:11
9."Dream Within a Dream"  1:35
10."Discovering Michael"  4:52
11."Mary"  1:56
12."Confession"  5:48
13."Memories"  1:16
14."No Thought of Ireland"  2:07
15."Quiet Time, To Pete's"  3:36
16."Anthony's Story"  3:25
17."Sister Hildegarde"  3:14
18."Farewell"  2:48
19."Fairground Carousel"  1:08
Total length:
51:06

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Philomena received widespread critical acclaim from reviewers upon release. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 92% based on reviews from 170 critics, with an average score of 7.9/10. The site's consensus reads: "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."[8] 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".[9]

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.[10] 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]".[11]

Rex Reed of The New York Observer gave the film a glowing review and named it the Best Film of 2013 saying: "It’s profoundly moving and thoroughly mind provoking, but despite the poignant subject matter, I promise you will not leave Philomena depressed. I’ve seen it twice and felt exhilarated, informed, enriched, absorbed and optimistic both times. This is filmmaking at its most refined. I will probably forget most of what happened at the movies in 2013, but I will never forget Philomena".[12]

Accusations of Anti-Catholicism[edit]

The New York Post characterized the film as "another hateful and boring attack on Catholics."[13] The Post's film reviewer, Kyle Smith called it "90 minutes of organized hate".[13] Smith further asserted: "A film that is half as harsh on Judaism or Islam, of course, wouldn’t be made in the first place but would be universally reviled if it were."[13] In response to this review, filmmaker 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.[14]

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights issued a report which it says debunks Philomena, taking issue with factual representations in the film. The report calls it "a cruel caricature of nuns that is based on half-truths and out-and-out lies. That it appeals to the worst appetite in anti-Catholic bigots is not debatable." [15] The congregation of sisters depicted in the film said that they were denied a copy of the script, that the film was "very misleading" with the facts, and "twisted the truth".[16]

An article authored by Martin Sixsmith and published in the Guardian supports much of the portrayal of a scheme carried out by Catholic organizations in Ireland that enriched the Church through coerced adoptions and forced labor of unwed mothers.[17]

Box office[edit]

As of May 7, 2014, the film has grossed $37.7 million in North America and $62.4 million in other territories, for a combined gross of $100.1  million.[2]

Accolades[edit]

The film and its cast and crew have earned several award nominations, including four Academy Award nominations and four British Academy Film Award nominations.[18] Dench and Coogan received nominations for Best Actor and Best Actress at the British Independent Film Awards.[19] Dench also garnered nominations for Best Actress from the Broadcast Film Critics Association, London Film Critics' Circle, Satellite Awards and Screen Actors Guild Awards.[20][21][22][23] Philomena gathered three nominations at the 71st Golden Globe Awards.[24] The won the David di Donatello for the Best Foreign European Movie.[25]

Historicity[edit]

The film took liberties with the real life events. Sister Hildegard McNulty, the principal antagonist in the film, 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 chastises Philomena for carnality is also dramatic license.[26]

Sixsmith has said that Coogan's portrayal of him shared his "intolerance of injustice in all walks of life," and his admiration for a woman like Philomena who has the strength to rise above this, but he is less angry than his screen version and is an agnostic rather than an atheist.[27]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Philomena (12A)". Pathé. British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 27 February 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c "Philomena (2013)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 17 May 2014. 
  3. ^ "Venezia 70". labiennale. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  4. ^ "Venice film festival 2013: the full line-up". The Guardian (London). 25 July 2013. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  5. ^ "Official Awards of the 70th Venice Film Festival". Retrieved 8 September 2013. 
  6. ^ "TIFF 2013: 12 Years a Slave wins film fest's top prize". Toronto Star, 15 September 2013.
  7. ^ "Philomena (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2014-02-08. 
  8. ^ "Philomena (2013)". Flixster Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2 April 2014. 
  9. ^ "Philomena". CBS Interactive Metacritic. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  10. ^ Torrance, Kelly (2013-11-28). "Torrance, Kelly. "Philomena", ''Washington Times'', November 28, 2013". Washingtontimes.com. Retrieved 2014-04-10. 
  11. ^ Justin Chang Chief Film Critic @JustinCChang (2013-08-31). "Chang, Justin. "Venice Film Review: ‘Philomena’", ''Variety'', August 31, 2013". Variety.com. Retrieved 2014-04-10. 
  12. ^ Rex Reed. "Reed, Rex. "Seek and Ye Shall Find: Philomena Is The Most Powerful Movie of the Year", ''The New York Observer'', November 19, 2013". Observer.com. Retrieved 2014-04-10. 
  13. ^ a b c Smith, Kyle (21 November 2013). "‘Philomena’ another hateful and boring attack on Catholics". New York Post. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  14. ^ Smith, Kyle (7 December 2013). "Harvey Weinstein’s ‘Philomena’ attack ad". New York Post. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  15. ^ Donahue, William (27 January 2014). "Debunking "Philomena"". Catholic League. 
  16. ^ Cable, Simon (7 November 2013). "Judi Dench movie Philomena 'twisted the truth' says nuns | Mail Online". London: Dailymail.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-04-10. 
  17. ^ The Catholic church sold my child | Life and style. The Guardian. Retrieved on 2014-05-22.
  18. ^ Reynolds, Simon; Harris, Jamie (8 January 2014). "BAFTA Film Awards 2014 - nominations in full". Digital Spy. Retrieved 8 January 2014. 
  19. ^ "Nominations 2013". British Independent Film Awards. 11 November 2013. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  20. ^ Gray, Tim (16 December 2013). "Critics Choice Awards: '12 Years,' 'American Hustle' Earn 13 Nominations Each". Variety. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  21. ^ "London Critics' Circle Announces 2014 Film Awards Nominations". London Film Critics Circle. 17 December 2013. Retrieved 17 December 2013. 
  22. ^ "2013 Nominations". International Press Academy. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  23. ^ Breznican, Anthony (11 December 2013). "SAG Award Noms: '12 Years a Slave' leads while 'The Butler' surprises". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  24. ^ Reynolds, Simon (12 December 2013). "Golden Globes nominations 2013: Movies list in full". Digital Spy. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  25. ^ http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/italys-david-di-donatello-awards-710816
  26. ^ Sneed, Tierna. "'Philomena' Draws Catholic Backlash". Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  27. ^ Sixsmith, Martin (8 November 2013) Philomena and Me: Martin Sixsmith, on a mother's search for the child she was forced to give up MumsnetGuestBlogs, mumsnet.com

External links[edit]