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'Philomena' offers compelling story

April 21, 2014 - Mike Donahey

If one is inclined to see former first run releases at the numerous discount theaters around central Iowa, then I highly recommend “Philomena,” starring Dame Judith Dench and Steve Coogan.

The British made film did not get as much attention as deserved — it was up against the more publicized “12 Years a Slave,” “American Hustle,” the “Dallas Buyers Club,” and “Captain Phillips” among others.

To its credit, “Philomena” garnered four Oscar nominations — best picture, a best actress nod for Dench, best screenplay and music.

It did not win any, which was a shame.

A well-written screenplay, Coogan, and Dench are the film's treasures.

Movie goers used to seeing Dench as the tough, hard-boiled “M” in the last three James Bond movies will appreciate her range in “Philomena.”

She portrays the real life Philomena Lee, who seeks a long lost son with the help of disgraced journalist.

Lee is plain spoken.

It is clear she earned her degrees from the college of common sense and the school of hard knocks.

And as the film goes on we see two more attributes — Lee is a strong woman of faith and forgiveness.

The plot is this: Lee, Catholic, pregnant and unmarried in 1951 Ireland — is disowned by her father and sent to a convent — a home for other unwed mothers. The nuns provide room and board for Lee and others at a steep price — they must work seven days a week in the convent laundry. Lee gives birth to a son in the convent hospital, and names him Anthony.

But when Anthony is three years old, the convent’s nuns, in exchange for a generous donation, gave him up for adoption to Americans, who were told he was an orphan. I won’t give up more of the story line, because that would deprive readers of several unexpected twists and turns which follow.

“Philomena”, was based off journalist Martin Sixsmith's book, “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee.” The film, rated PG-13, is currently playing at the Carmike Theaters at the North Grand Mall in Ames.



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