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These two unlikely companions are on a journey to find her long lost son. 

Year: 2013 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 12A Cert – Under 12s admitted only with an adult 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Stephen Frears 
Starring: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark  

Stephen Frears’ Philomena tells the true story of Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) and her battle to find out the truth of what happened to the baby boy that was taken from her in the 1950s. As a teenage and unmarried mother in Ireland, she was forced to give the child up for adoption and to work in one of the Magdalene laundries. Philomena has kept this secret for 50 years but reveals it to her daughter who then asks for the help of journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) to help her mother find her son.

Although this has the potential of being merely an emotional drama, writers Jeff Pope and Steve Coogan (who also produced the film), manage to bring a lightness to the film through humour, with Martin’s sarcastic and slightly cynical attitude being softened by Philomena’s hope and slightly dotty personality. This does not fall into soppy territory, however, as although the protagonists find mutual ground, their responses to the harrowing truth of Philomena’s story in the emotional ending greatly differ, allowing the film to deliver its real punch.

Coogan’s Martin has been recently ousted from his job as a Labour political adviser after a leaked email and feels lost until Philomena’s story chances upon him. It is an offer he cannot refuse and they journey as far as America in their quest. Judi Dench is excellent in the role, capturing Philomena’s suffering but also her courage and incredible capacity to forgive. This is a very poignant film with brilliant performances and it will make you laugh and cry in equal measure.

Olivia Lynch

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Screenings of this film:

2013/2014 Spring Term (digital)