Now that I have completed my “Top 10 Films of 2013,” I have seen another that should be at the top of my list. British director Stephen Frears is not a household name, but he should be if only for his previous efforts The Queen and High Fidelity. Two brilliant gems with nothing in common except quality. He directed his first film in 1971, but may have just completed his best work with Philomena.
Raised Anglican, although his mother was Jewish, Frears had a keen interest in developing the Martin Sixsmith book The Lost Child Of Philomena. Sixsmith had lost his job as a Labour advisor for the British government, and wasn’t sure if he should adventure into human interest writing, or exploring Russian history. He meets a woman who claims her underage teenage mother (Philomena) was forced into signing away the birth rights of her son to a convent in Roscrea, Ireland over 50 years ago. Philomena who was forced into servitude at the convent, actually witnessed her 3 year-old her son along with his inseparable best friend Mary drive away with new adoptive parents to an unknown world.
After 50 years of trying to get information from the convent to no avail, sensing a good story, Sixsmith stepped in to help her. After much travail, Philomena finally gets resolve, but the outcome is a mixed one. Her son grew up to become very successful, with a life she couldn’t have given him, but something was also missing from this life, his birth mother. I don’t want to tell you anymore, as it will spoil it for you. The always commanding Judi Dench plays the very determined Philomena, and Steve Coogan who co-wrote the screenplay (with Jeff Pope) is the flawed but eventually even more determined Martin Sixpence.
Unfortunately, various forms of indentured servitude were at the very top of my Top 10 Films of 2013, including 12 Years A Slave, and 20 Feet From Stardom. However, these films cried out to be made. Philomena screams loudly also, and will deeply touch your heart, as you experience the pain of a very loving mother lose her child, and find out his story 50 years later. My list was made up before I had seen Philomena. It also deserves to be in my top 3, as it is one of the very few films that has ever made me cry.
The Q and A prior to the screening with director Stephen Fears showed him to be a humble, and prudent man, not boastful of his many accomplishments. He then announced a very special guest to introduce the film. A tall, reserved, and very dignified woman in her 70’s suddenly appeared in front of me, it was Philomena herself. As she walked by me, she looked straight into my eyes and said “Thank you for coming.” Not knowing who she was before seeing the film, my response now is, “Thank you for being Philomena.”
It just may be the best film (and story) of 2013!
Check out the movie trailer below: