This based-on-a-true-story film leavens tragic subject matter with humour.
Stephen Frears (United Kingdom, Special Presentation)
Sunday, September 8, 3:30 p.m.
Princess of Wales (300 King Street West)
Monday, September 9, 11:00 a.m.
Visa Screening Room, Elgin Theatre (189 Yonge Street)
Adapted from Martin Sixsmith’s nonfiction book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, Philomena is about an elderly woman seeking a child she gave up for adoption. Steve Coogan plays Sixsmith, a cynical journalist who both manipulates and learns from the title character (Judi Dench) as she searches for her lost son. There’s also a parallel narrative concerning a convent in 1950s Ireland, where unwed mothers were pressured into signing away the rights to their children. The film’s road-movie tone is a curious way of treating a true and deeply personal story, and yet Philomena’s past is never trivialized.
A great deal of the film’s success comes down to the chemistry between Coogan and Dench. The pair make Philomena‘s transitions between light moments and darker ones feel natural. Were it not for their rapport, the tragic subject matter might not be bearable.