Saturday, December 7, 2013

'Philomena' Well Worth the Discomfort

"Philomena," playing at the Grandin Theatre in Roanoke, has wonderfully noble aspirations and my guess is that it accomplishes them. Still, I'm left in utter disgust again at the Catholic Church, its obsession with sex, it's abuse of women, its arrogance and its absolute refusal to admit wrong.

The title character is Philomena Lee (played by the estimable Judi Dench), in a story based upon former BBC journalist Martin Sixsmith's (Steve Coogan) The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, who was as a pregnant teenager was put into what was essentially a Catholic prison for wayward girls.

Then she was forced to give up her child when he was a little older than a toddler. She remained interned with these vicious nuns until she "worked off" her room and board and the child's delivery. Nevermind that the baby was breach and an odler nun pronounced the unbearable pain of that kind of birth "god's punishment" for having sex. Sick, sick, sick.

All that aside, Philomena Lee, now an old woman, wants to find the son she lost and enters into a deal with Sixsmith, who has recently lost his job for political reasons and is looking to write something as a tabloid freelancer that will bring in some money. This looks like a pretty good story. But there's more to it than he understands at first and leads to a developing relationship with Philomena.

Philomena turns out to be a remarkable character and Dench is the perfect casting decision, since she could make a Thursday reading of the phone book intriguing. Her daughter in this fine movie is played by Anna Maxwell Martin, a busy young British actress you might know as the lead character in the outstanding British TV series "The Bletchley Circle."

See the movie, but don't go because you want to escape or to be comfortable. You'll get neither of those, but you'll get a hell of a movie.

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