The story of Philomena is a quite tragic one. A mother’s death, a father’s abandonment, teenage pregnancy, lost love. You see, Philomena was sent to a convent in Rosrea, Ireland in the early 1950s after becoming pregnant. Forced to work in the convent’s laundry seven days a week, as payment for taking care of her son Anthony, Philomena was being punished for her “sin”. And then a mother’s worst nightmare, Anthony, at the age of 3, was sold by the nuns to an American family for 1,000 pounds. Philomena wasn’t even able to say goodbye.
Fast forward 50 years, and Philomena connects with Martin Sixsmith, a onetime BBC correspondent and former member of Tony Blair’s communications team, who takes on her request to help her find Anthony as a human interest piece. The friendship formed between these two is quite something.
I won’t tell you much more of the movie as I don’t want to ruin it but what I can tell you is this. Judi Dench is phenomenal. And her co-star, Steve Coogan, who adapted Martin Sixsmith’s 2009 book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee into a screenplay, provided a bit of comedic relief and voice of reason.
I would consider myself a religious person. I try to follow my life in the tenants of the bible’s teachings. However, I also believe that we are not placed here on this earth to judge anyone but rather to love and support one another. The way Philomena is treated by the nuns and punished for her actions is beyond me. And yet, she forgives. The church, the nuns, herself. Philomena embodies the very essence of Christianity in my view, the ability to forgive, even those who hurt us so gravely.
My favorite line of the film is when Martin recites to Philomena a poignant T.S. Elliot quote “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
Forgiveness and home. I think that about sums up this film for me.