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Philomena

By on Jan 30, 2014 in Movie Reviews | 0 comments

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The Observer newspaper said this about the movie Philomena. “Sensitively and carefully directed by Stephen Frears and brilliantly written by co-star Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience that deserves genuflection.”

So that’s it. I had been wondering about Steve Coogan, the stand up comedian who was a co-writer as well as an actor. He did such a good job pretending to the British upper classes with their snotty caustic humor and horror of mixing with the help that I thought he might be the genuine article. But no, he was raised in an Irish catholic family and attended Manchester University, not a good resume for a high class Brit. The original journalist, Martin Sixsmith, (Isn’t that an adorable name) did go to Oxford, Harvard and the Sorbonne and did have proper credentials.

If you were there, you would have seen me crying. Some things really got to me. Damn Catholics. On television last night there was a nun who wanted to send a woman to jail for having attempted suicide, also a mortal sin. Premarital sex and suicide are both mortal sins for Catholics. Philomena’s sin was to have sex and have a baby. She didn’t blame the boy. The sex made her feel good and what can be wrong with that? she asked.  I wondered the same thing when I was a teenager. My wondering hasn’t stopped. I have to force all those bad tapes to go away.

Okay, recovering Catholics, repeat after me ten times:

It’s okay to feel good when you have sex.

It’s okay to feel good when you have sex.

It’s okay to feel good when you have sex.

I’m not really going to repeat it ten times. You get the picture. Philomena was confused by an ecclesiastical hierarchy that preached goodness and practiced evil. It’s as simple as that. She goes to a church to confess. Martin is disgusted with her. In the confessional she can’t speak; she can only cry. She feels she is sinning but when it comes down to it, she can find nothing to confess. That’s my thought anyway. She has been told all her life that she is to blame but, when she thinks about it as she must when preparing for confession, she can only find misery. And who made her miserable? The church, the clergy, the nuns, that’s who.

The strongest element in this movie is the story, the plot as it slowly unfolds. No one will come away from this movie talking about the score or the cinematography or any of the other elements that go into making a movie. The actors and the director got out of the way. They let the story lead.

I was thinking about the harp, you know, the one Philomena’s son, Pete wore.  James Joyce has a reference to it in The Dubliners and it’s important to the Irish. I think it’s a symbol of heritage and equality.

I was thinking about Uriah Heep, Dickens humble man, who was anything but. He told David Copperfield he forgave him, which was his way of turning the tables. It was David who needed to do the forgiving. My father used to say “I forgive you, mind that.” a play on Uriah. In the beginning of the movie Philomena, the young girl, begs forgiveness from Sister Hildegard. She had done nothing wrong but she was forced to accept responsibility. In the end an older Philomena forgives the same Sister Hildegard. Sister Hildegard never had sex. She remained celibate her whole life and because of that she feels herself blameless. It’s good to remember that an admission of guilt doesn’t necessarily need to be there in order for us to forgive. By forgiving her, Philomena was assigning guilt, assigning guilt and forgiving in one fell swoop. Good going, Philomena. Erin Go Bragh. Ireland forever.

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