Philomena is a delight.  You can truly tell that the summer blockbuster fan-boy films are all spent and we are seriously into Oscar nomination territory.  

Based on a true storm, Philomena tells the harrowing true-life story of a teenage Irish girl up the duff with child and assigned in disgrace to the ‘care’ of Nuns in a local nunnery come workhouse come prison.  As if this wasn’t bad enough, the children are sold off at £1,000 a piece to childless couples, with this being seen by the nuns as a just penance for the sins of the hapless teens.   The roller-coaster story tells the story of down-on-his-luck journalist Martin Sixsmith (“News at ten”… “No, actually it was the BBC”) picking up this human interest story and attempting to track down Philomena’s long lost child.  

Stephen Frears (Mrs Henderson Presents, The Queen) directs his cast brilliant.  Whilst the story is sad and sometimes shocking in places, the touches of humour throughout never make this film the true trauma that it could have been:  the dire warnings of tissues being required were (at least from the sample of this four cinemagoers) never close to being required.  The nearest you get to tearing up is when Alexandre Desplat – fast becoming one of my favourite composers after The Kings Speech and Harry Potter films – strikes up his haunting theme to old video clips of the growing Anthony/Michael.

Judi Dench is on top form – and surely has another Oscar nomination in train for her performance as Philomena. 

But the real surprise here is Steve Coogan.  As well as producing the film and co-writing the screenplay, his Martin Sixsmith is beautifully observed, and such a massive departure from his Partridge: Alpha Papa performance that you question if it is the same guy.   The scene where he realises he has actually met Michael is perfect:  his desperate attempts at total recall to Philomena who excitedly needs to know the details illustrates to the viewer the number of people that float in and out of your life without you ever actually ‘meeting’ them.


I’m late in the game with this review, but if you can still get the chance to catch this film at the cinema, do so – you won’t be disappointed.

Fad Rating:  FFFFf.