Human Interest Story

Every year come awards season, there are those movies that are universally appraised for the Oscar-worthy performances of their leads, while the quality of the film itself tends to be nothing but an afterthought.  Although star Judi Dench certainly deserves the praise she has been receiving for her performance in Philomena, the movie itself should not be forgotten.  With a good mix of laugh-out-loud humor and tear-inducing drama, this movie is quality entertainment that will hopefully be able to find its audience.

Dench plays the title character, an Irish woman in her sixties who has spent her entire life keeping a secret, even from those closest to her.  When she was a teenager, she got pregnant and was shipped off by her father to live with nuns.  She was put to work in the laundry and her son was eventually sold in adoption to a couple from America.  Now, fifty years later, her attempts at finding her son have proved fruitless as the nuns keep giving her the cold shoulder whenever she asks for information.

Coogan as Martin in PhilomenaEnter Martin Sixsmith, a political journalist who recently lost his job and is possibly struggling with depression.  A chance meeting with Philomena’s adult daughter and Martin finds himself signing up to write the kind of story he was determined not to write: a human interest story.  Martin and Philomena travel to America, where he uses his contacts there to track down information on Philomena’s long-lost son.

Philomena is based on the true story that was first told in Sixsmith’s book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee.  Sixsmith is played in the movie by Steve Coogan, an actor known mostly for his comedic performances.  Also a co-writer of the script along with Jeff Pope, Coogan more-or-less plays the straight role here, but still manages to make us laugh, usually with a cynical observation of some other character’s behavior.  His performance should not be overlooked.

That said, he will certainly be overshadowed by his co-star who delivers one of the most charming performances of her career, while at the same time being one of her most heartbreaking.  We feel for her, instantly, and we care about her journey.  In her performance, we see the sweetness of this character.  Despite the pain we see she went through in the flashbacks, the person she has become is the complete opposite of the cynical Sixsmith and it is the blending of these two opposites that keeps us, the viewers, involved in their journey.

The terrific performances serve to enhance a story that is definitely a human interest story that should prove interesting to most humans.  There are a couple of twists to the plotline that you may or may not see coming, but even if you do see the end coming, the journey is worth the trip.

Philomena covers the range of emotions and there was definitely a fair share of both laughing and sobbing from the audience at the preview screening.  Whether you cry or laugh or both, you will likely walk out of this movie having felt that the last ninety-eight minutes worth well spent.

Philomena is rated PG-13 for “some language.”  There are some foul words thrown around here and there, but nothing terribly offensive.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Philomena.