Chrissy Iley Reviews Philomena

BATD ON Jan 15, 2014 AT 4:47 pm

by Chrissy Iley



Awards season in Hollywood is like the run-up to Christmas all over again. There’s a party every night and if you wanted to you could turn up to the opening of an eyelid.

This week, of the many invites, the party that stood out was an unexpected afternoon tea at the Beverly Wilshire, the Pretty Woman hotel. It was for the film Philomena, which I saw again just prior to the festivities.

It is exceptionally well written, thoughtful, funny, clever and beyond moving. I cried from the depths of my being. And I was angry for poor Philomena who had her son snatched away from her after working in the laundry of a convent in Ireland with cruel nuns who wanted to punish her for the sins of her flesh.

She took the punishment. She endured. She didn’t tell anybody about her son who had been adopted until what would have been his 50th birthday. I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t heard about it, but be prepared to weep.

The movie stars Judi Dench and is produced, co-written and co-stars Steve Coogan, who was at the party, along with other luminaries including Philomena herself.

Philomena was almost exactly the woman Dench gave us, although perhaps even sweeter. She told that Jaci Stephens it was such an honour to meet her because she’d spent so many wonderful moments reading her soap column in the Daily Mail Weekend magazines. When we suggested it was she who had an incredible life, she shrugged no.

The last time I met Steve Coogan I was not particularly kind to him and I saw him look at me with a slightly cornered feeling as I approached him, and there was nowhere for him to hide. I told him that he moved me and he looked genuinely touched. I meant it when I said he’d done wonderful work.

He knows that he has raised his game with this movie and it has been a landmark for him. He has added to human happiness. He gave a little speech where he said that those who criticised the movie, I suppose for the way it exposed the Catholic church, should actually watch the movie because it does indeed ‘dignify faith.’

Then he told the story of when he went with the script to Judi Dench to see if she liked it and she did. She said, ‘And who is going to play Martin?’ – the journalist who helped track down Philomena’s son. Which is in fact the co-starring role. Coogan had said, ‘I thought I would be playing that role.’ Apparently she looked askance when he said this. Fortunately they were able to help raise each other’s game and have some incredible scenes together.

Take a look at the trailer for Philomena below.

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