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Dame Judi Dench plays a mother who never forgets
It’s as though there’s an invisible, unbreakable thread that connects a mother to her child. No matter how big they grow, no matter how far away they move, that thread holds strong.
Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) feels that thread pulling on her heart, but doesn’t know where the other end lies. Her son, Anthony, whom she had as an unwed teenager, was taken by a Catholic convent in Ireland when he was three years old and turned over to an American adoptive family. Philomena was then forced to sign an agreement to never reveal the secrets of the adoption or to seek further contact with her child.
Fifty years later, the memory of her stolen son still haunts her. “I’d like to know if Anthony ever thought of me,” she says. “I’ve thought of him every day.”
Enter recently unemployed political journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan). Depressed by his current state of affairs, Sixsmith is on the lookout for his next big writing project when he hears of Philomena’s story. However, being a hard-hitting news reporter, the thought of a “human-interest story” seems frivolous. “I don’t do those,” he says.
Ultimately, he decides to give the story a chance and travels with Philomena to America in search of Anthony. Their journey hits some unexpected twists as they find that Anthony, whose name was changed to Michael, is a gay man. Just as Philomena’s life was determined for her, we find out that Michael’s life is as well.
Directed by Stephen Frears (My Beautiful Laundrette, Prick Up Your Ears, and Mrs. Henderson Presents), Philomena—though based on a rather dark true story—promises to be a film with great heart. Dench’s performance is full of precision and laced with playfulness. “She got me to a T,” the real-life Philomena Lee, now eighty, says. “I felt I had known her all my life.”
Philomena hits theaters nationwide on November 27. —Megan Smith