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Philomena is beautiful. It tells a beautiful story, stars beautiful people and takes place in a beautiful place. The only disappointment is that the movie was caught up in teaching the audience a lesson.
The story follows journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) and Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) as the two take a journey to find Philomena's son.
Philomena was Catholic and had her son before she was married. Because of that, she was forced to give him up. When she finally told her daughter about him, her daughter found Martin and convinced the recently-terminated journalist to write a human interest story. In searching for Philomena's son, they take devastating news and find a way to help Philomena finally get peace and relief with her son being taken.
Because the movie is based on true events, it doesn't have the typical Hollywood story. Be prepared to be disappointed in some of the plot points. There is no real happy ending. Instead of a 'they lived happily ever after' ending, it was a heavy-handed lesson. Philomena's life is very rough and the movie does not shy away from that fact. I applaud the writer and director for not watering down the difficulties.
Coogan is the standout actor in this film. His grumpy journalist character goes through an obvious change of heart and Coogan is believable in his role. He is passionate in all of the right places. It would be a shame if he doesn't get some attention for his work in the film during this awards season.
Dench falls right into the role of Philomena and plays the emotions just right. That being said, it isn't Dench's strongest role she's ever played. While she fit right in as the sad older woman, when Philomena was happy or excited, Dench wasn't as believable. If she wins the Best Actress award, I will be incredibly surprised.
The major drawback for this film is the lesson that it forced the audience to learn. Instead of telling the heartbreaking story and letting the audience decide how they feel, the director used angles and point of views to attempt to force the audience into believing one side. Without stating spoilers, it was difficult to understand who the wronged one in the film truly was. The characters' ideals and morals were so different, I wish I had gotten the chance to put myself in each of their place. The audience was stuffed in a box, forced into believing that everyone but Philomena and Martin had somehow done something wrong.
Philomena is a beautiful movie and is a must-watch. It questions our humanity and shows just how far people will go to learn the truth.