Philomena (film)

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Philomena
Philomena poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byStephen Frears
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based onThe Lost Child of Philomena Lee 
by Martin Sixsmith
Starring
Music byAlexandre Desplat
CinematographyRobbie Ryan
Edited byValerio Bonelli
Distributed by
Release dates
  • 31 August 2013 (2013-08-31) (Venice)
  • 1 November 2013 (2013-11-01) (United Kingdom)
  • 22 November 2013 (2013-11-22) (United States)
Running time98 minutes[1]
Country
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
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 by
Based onThe Lost Child of Philomena Lee 
by Martin Sixsmith
Starring
Music byAlexandre Desplat
CinematographyRobbie Ryan
Edited byValerio Bonelli
Distributed by
Release dates
  • 31 August 2013 (2013-08-31) (Venice)
  • 1 November 2013 (2013-11-01) (United Kingdom)
  • 22 November 2013 (2013-11-22) (United States)
Running time98 minutes[1]
Country
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
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 forcibly adopted son, and Sixsmith's efforts to help her find him. The film was co-produced in the United States and the United Kingdom.

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: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay for Coogan and Pope, Best Actress for Dench, and Best Original Score for Desplat. It was also nominated for four BAFTA Awards and three Golden Globe Awards.

Plot[edit]

London journalist Martin Sixsmith 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 toddler son Anthony nearly fifty years ago. Although he initially opposes the idea of writing a human interest story, he eventually meets with Philomena and decides to investigate further.

After having sex 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 the convent 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 nearly fifty years, but she visited the convent periodically to try to find him. The nuns repeatedly told her that they were unable to help her.

Martin and Philomena begin their search at the convent. The nuns are once again polite but unhelpful, and claim that the adoption records were lost in a fire years earlier, although they later present her with a contract she was forced to sign, forbidding her from contacting her son again, which Martin considers to be too convenient to be coincidence. 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 £1,000 each to rich Americans.

Martin's enquiries reach a dead end in Ireland, but he receives a promising lead from the United States and he invites Philomena to accompany him there. His contacts 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 working in the US. They also learn that he has been dead for eight years.

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 agrees to talk to Philomena. 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, although he never told his family, Michael had privately wondered about his birth mother all his life, and had travelled to Ireland in his final months to try and find her. Pete informs them that the nuns had told Michael that his mother had abandoned him and that they had lost contact with her. He also reveals that, against his parents' wishes, he'd had Michael buried in the convent's cemetery.

Philomena and Martin go to the convent where, against Philomena's pleas, Martin angrily storms into the private quarters and confronts an elderly nun, Sister Hildegarde McNulty, who worked at the convent when Anthony was forcibly adopted. He accuses her of lying to a dying man about something that was so important to both him and his mother. Hildegarde is unrepentant, saying that losing her son was Philomena's penance. Martin demands an apology from Hildegarde, telling her that what she did was un-Christian, but is astonished when Philomena instead chooses to forgive her. Philomena then asks to see her son's grave, where Martin tells her he has chosen not to publish the story. Philomena tells him to publish it anyway.

Cast[edit]

In addition to the main cast, Sophie Kennedy Clark plays a young Philomena,[7] Kate Fleetwood plays a young Sister Hildegarde,[citation needed], Amy McAllister plays Sister Anunciata,[citation needed] and Sean Mahon plays Michael, Philomena's son.[8]

Soundtrack[edit]

The score of the film is composed by Alexandre Desplat.[9]

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.

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."[10] 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".[11]

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.[12] 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]".[13]

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".[14]

Accusations of anti-Catholicism[edit]

The New York Post characterized the film as "another hateful and boring attack on Catholics".[15] The Post's film reviewer, Kyle Smith called it "90 minutes of organized hate".[15] 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".[15] 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.[16]

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."[17] 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".[18] For the same article "A spokesman for film-maker Pathe said although some scenarios were changed for ‘dramatic purposes’, the story was ‘materially true’. He said the nuns were contacted twice over the screenplay last year but they failed to send a formal reply." There is no mention of the nuns having read the book in which the film is based, The Lost Child of Philomena Lee.

An article authored by Martin Sixsmith and published in the Guardian reiterates 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.[19]

Box office[edit]

As of 7 May 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.[20] Dench and Coogan received nominations for Best Actor and Best Actress at the British Independent Film Awards.[21] Dench also garnered nominations for Best Actress from the Broadcast Film Critics Association, London Film Critics' Circle, Satellite Awards and Screen Actors Guild Awards.[22][23][24][25] Philomena garnered three nominations at the 71st Golden Globe Awards,[26] and also won the David di Donatello for Best European Film.[27]

Historicity[edit]

The film employs artistic license 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. In reality, McNulty died in 1995 and Sixsmith only began his investigation in 2004. The final scene where a wheelchair-bound McNulty chastises Philomena for carnality is also artistic license.[28]

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. However, he is less angry than his on-screen version and is an agnostic rather than an atheist.[29]

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. ^ Guiducci, Mark (November 22, 2013). "10 Minutes with Philomena's Sophie Kennedy Clark". Vogue (magazine). Retrieved August 12, 2014. 
  8. ^ Grunert, Andrea. "Andrea Grunert interviews Irish actor Sean Mahon, mid filming "Philomena" with Stephen Frears.". Vulgo. Retrieved August 12, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Philomena (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)". Amazon.com. Retrieved 8 February 2014. 
  10. ^ "Philomena (2013)". Flixster Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2 April 2014. 
  11. ^ "Philomena". CBS Interactive Metacritic. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  12. ^ Torrance, Kelly (28 November 2013). "Torrance, Kelly. "Philomena", ''Washington Times'', November 28, 2013". Washingtontimes.com. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  13. ^ Justin Chang Chief Film Critic @JustinCChang (31 August 2013). "Chang, Justin. "Venice Film Review: ‘Philomena’", ''Variety'', August 31, 2013". Variety.com. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  14. ^ 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 10 April 2014. 
  15. ^ a b c Smith, Kyle (21 November 2013). "'Philomena' another hateful and boring attack on Catholics". New York Post. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  16. ^ Smith, Kyle (7 December 2013). "Harvey Weinstein’s 'Philomena' attack ad". New York Post. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  17. ^ Donahue, William (27 January 2014). "Debunking "Philomena"". Catholic League. 
  18. ^ Cable, Simon (7 November 2013). "Judi Dench movie Philomena 'twisted the truth' says nuns | Mail Online". London: Dailymail.co.uk. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  19. ^ The Catholic church sold my child | Life and style. The Guardian. Retrieved on 22 May 2014.
  20. ^ Reynolds, Simon; Harris, Jamie (8 January 2014). "BAFTA Film Awards 2014 - nominations in full". Digital Spy. Retrieved 8 January 2014. 
  21. ^ "Nominations 2013". British Independent Film Awards. 11 November 2013. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  22. ^ Gray, Tim (16 December 2013). "Critics Choice Awards: '12 Years,' 'American Hustle' Earn 13 Nominations Each". Variety. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  23. ^ "London Critics' Circle Announces 2014 Film Awards Nominations". London Film Critics Circle. 17 December 2013. Retrieved 17 December 2013. 
  24. ^ "2013 Nominations". International Press Academy. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  25. ^ Breznican, Anthony (11 December 2013). "SAG Award Noms: '12 Years a Slave' leads while 'The Butler' surprises". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  26. ^ Reynolds, Simon (12 December 2013). "Golden Globes nominations 2013: Movies list in full". Digital Spy. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  27. ^ http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/italys-david-di-donatello-awards-710816
  28. ^ Sneed, Tierna. "'Philomena' Draws Catholic Backlash". Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  29. ^ 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]