Saturday Selections: Philomena

First off, let me say “hello” to the many new followers I’ve gained over the past couple weeks. Your interest in my babbling is very much appreciated!

Although this blog is mainly about the writing life, writing tips, self-publishing and a bit of shameless book promotion, each week (on Saturdays) I select one thing over the past seven days that’s won my approval – given my inherent cynicism, my approval is hard to win.

Saturday Selections usually includes a book or movie, but can sometimes wander off into activities, food or drink. I hope my praise piques your interest in a few of these things and I hope you learn a little bit more about the writer behind this blog.

So now, onto a movie that warmed my critical heart….


Philomena is an old Irish lady (played by the superb Judi Dench). Philomena used to be a young Irish girl. That young Irish girl had a bit too much fun at Philomenathe carnival one night and got pregnant. Philomena’s family was so embarrassed they abandoned her at a nunnery where she was made to suffer for her sin (I won’t go into details, but trust me, even the men will cringe when they watch the birth scene).

The nunnery is full of other “fallen young women” who are allowed to see their children for an hour each day – the other hours are spent slaving away in the laundry. The mothers live in fear of their babies getting adopted and never seeing them again. One day, Philomena’s baby gets adopted.

As an old lady, Philomena has held tight to the secret of her lost child. She has tried to find him, but the nunnery insists they can’t help. On what would be the boy’s fiftieth birthday, she breaks down and tells her (legitimate) daughter of the baby she lost.

Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) is a journalist. He’s recently lost his job due to a scandal he insists he had no part in. Martin needs work to get his career back on track. Through happenstance, he runs into Philomena’s daughter who tells him of her mother’s story. Martin sees the chance for a boost to his career.

Once Martin and Philomena partner up (somewhat reluctantly on Martin’s part), he works to uncover the truth behind what went on in the nunnery. What he finds leads them to America where Philomena learns the truth of what happened to her son and the lies the nunnery has been feeding her for decades.

Loved It

I have to say I’ve never seen anything with Judi Dench in it I didn’t like, so I may be biased, but I loved this movie. It sounds like it could be utterly depressing, but it’s actually filled with plenty of humor. It’s a very subtle film, but the emotions it wells up come on suddenly and forcefully. I’ve also never seen a movie where I so much wanted a man to punch the daylights out of wheelchair-bound, elderly nun (he doesn’t, again, it’s a subtle movie).

Alongside the overall plot line of the movie, the relationship between Philomena and Martin adds another layer of interest and depth. Martin starts out basically just using Philomena to further his career, but as he finds out more about what happened to her, a genuine friendship develops and he has to grapple with himself about whether or not he will exploit her story. And given the tab he’s run up on his editor’s expense account, if he doesn’t publish, he could face huge financial woes.

Although not depressing, Philomena is not a feel-good movie and is definitely not a sugary-sweet tale. It is reality (well, movie reality based on true events). It is also very entertaining, well made, wonderfully acted, and will definitely stick with you after you’re done watching it.

Thanks for reading everyone!

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