The bottom line is that Stephen Frears‘ Philomena “despises the policies of the old-school Catholic church of Ireland and rightly so,” I wrote on 9.9. “Variety‘s Justin Chang called it ‘a howl of anti-clerical outrage wrapped in a tea cozy.'” I called it a “gentle, tender-hearted, intelligently written film about an elderly Irish mother named Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) looking for a son she was forced to surrender for a blind adoption back in the mid ’50s, and about the fiendish Irish nuns who, consumed by the belief that Philomena was an unfit mother due to becoming pregnant out of wedlock, arranged to sell the boy to American parents and kept his origins a secret, even when he returned to Ireland as a grown AIDS-afflicted gay man, trying to find his biological mom.
“The nuns, based in a convent near Limerick, refused to tell the grown son anything. Philomena had likewise been unsuccessful in learning any facts about her long-lost child (whose adopted name was Michael Hess) and didn’t come to the truth until she hooked up with author and former government guy Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), whose book, ‘The Lost Child of Philomena Lee,’ is the basis of Coogan and co-writer Jeff Pope‘s screenplay.
“These are the facts behind Sixsmith’s book as well as the film, and anyone who wants to complain about spoilers can stuff it. The story is out there, the book was published in ’09…you can’t spoil a story that’s been widely absorbed for four years, and which has been Amazon’ed and Wikipedia’ed and discussed all to hell.”