AmericanCatholic.org
 
Skip Navigation Links
Home
Catholic News
Saints
Seasonal
Special Reports
Movies
Shopping
Donate
Share:
Facebook
Twitter
Google Plus
LinkedIn
Email
RSS Feeds
ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Philomena

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


CNS photo/Weinstein
Though compelling, the fact-based drama "Philomena" (Weinstein) makes uncomfortable viewing for Catholic moviegoers.

That's because this story of the titular character's search for her long-lost son presents church institutions in a uniformly negative light.

Yet director Stephen Frears' screen version of Martin Sixsmith's book "The Lost Child of Philomena Lee" recognizes the enduring individual faith of this same warmhearted Irish woman—played with aplomb by Judi Dench—as the source of her endearing personality.

Flashbacks to Philomena's teen years, during which she's portrayed by Sophie Kennedy Clark, show us some of the worst aspects of Irish society in the 1950s. An encounter with a stranger at a county fair leaves young Philomena pregnant, and her family, scandalized and shamefaced, promptly abandons her.

With nowhere else to turn, Philomena is thrown on the not-very-abundant mercy of the nuns who run a local facility for unwed mothers. There she's browbeaten, forced to endure a torturous breech delivery without anesthesia and only allowed to see her child for an hour a day. The rest of the time she toils in the convent laundry to work off her "debt" to the sisters.

But there's worse to come. Mothers at the home are more or less forced to give their children up for adoption to rich American visitors to the Emerald Isle, and one day it's Philomena's turn to undergo this ordeal. The separation is absolute; Philomena loses all track of the boy.

Flash-forward 50 years and, for the first time, retired nurse Philomena shares her sad tale with her grown daughter, Jane (Anna Maxwell Martin). Through Jane, Philomena is able to enlist the help of cynical British reporter Sixsmith (Steve Coogan, who also co-wrote the screenplay).

Recently an adviser to Tony Blair's Labor government, Sixsmith is at a loose end after being fired amid career-damaging circumstances. Though disdainful of human-interest stories, he nonetheless sees the appeal of Philomena's quest and brings his investigative skills to bear on her behalf.

As chronicled in Coogan and Jeff Pope's script, both the beginning and the conclusion of Philomena's saga have the potential to jar believers' sensibilities.

Thus, with reference to the church's sexual teaching and Philomena's past, altar-boy-turned-atheist Sixsmith asks her why God would endow us with an appetite he then wanted us to suppress. Not surprisingly, he seems blind to the difference between suppression and moderation, and ignores the obvious analogy that God did not give human beings the blessing of food so that we could become obese gluttons.

On the other hand, properly viewed, "Philomena" may serve to illustrate the dangers that can result when appreciation for the virtue of chastity degenerates into puritanical repression -- and when objective moral truths are misused as judgmental bludgeons.

With the exception of one seemingly temporary crisis, moreover, Philomena herself is shown to cling tenaciously to the very faith by whose representatives she was so cruelly mistreated. In fact, her Gospel-based beliefs help to set up the contrast in personalities between the two leads on which much of the movie's drama—as well as many of its interludes of much-needed comic relief—turn.

Throughout their interaction, Philomena's religiously inspired enthusiasm for life, friendliness toward others and willingness to forgive are shown to be in stark opposition to Sixsmith's jaded, isolating air of condescension.

Even so, a large measure of discernment is required to tackle the challenging material on offer here, including a conflicted but not fundamentally hostile outlook on faith.

The film contains mature themes including premarital sex, out-of-wedlock pregnancy and homosexuality, a scene of painful childbirth, a couple of same-sex kisses, a few rough terms and a couple of crude expressions. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



Search reviews at CatholicMovieReviews.org


Thank you for your comments. Editors will review all posts before they are visible on the website.

blog comments powered by Disqus







Gianna Beretta Molla: 
		<p>In less than 40 years, Gianna Beretta Molla became a pediatric physician, a wife, a mother and a saint! </p>
		<p>She was born in Magenta (near Milano) as the 10th of Alberto and Maria’s 13 children. An active member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Gianna earned degrees in medicine and surgery from the University of Pavia and opened a clinic in Mesero. Gianna also enjoyed skiing and mountain climbing.</p>
		<p>Shortly before her 1955 marriage to Pietro Molla, Gianna wrote to him: “Love is the most beautiful sentiment that the Lord has put into the soul of men and women.” She and Peter had three children, Pierlluigi, Maria Zita and Laura. </p>
		<p>Early in the pregnancy for her fourth child, doctors discovered that Gianna had both a child and a tumor in her uterus. She allowed the surgeons to remove the tumor but not to perform the complete hysterectomy that they recommended, which would have killed the child. Seven months later, Gianna Emanuela was born, The following week Gianna Beretta Molla died in Monza of complications from childbirth. She is buried in Mesero.</p>
		<p>Gianna Emanuela went on to become a physician herself. Gianna Beretta Molla was beatified in 1994 and canonized 10 years later.</p>
American Catholic Blog Jesus will manifest Himself through us to each other and to the world, and by His love, others will know that we are His disciples. In spite of all our defects, God is in love with us and keeps using us to light the light of love and compassion in the world. So give Jesus a big smile and a hearty thank-you.


 
CATHOLIC GREETINGS
Third Sunday of Easter
We come to the Eucharistic feast as sons and daughters of the resurrection.

St. Benedict Joseph Labre
Born in France, this patron of the homeless was devoted to adoration of the Eucharist.

Pope Benedict XVI
Join Catholics around the world in offering prayers for our Pope Emeritus on his 88th birthday.

Adult Baptism
Continue to offer your prayers and encouragement to those who’ve joined your parish family this Easter.

I'm Sorry
Asking for forgiveness begins the healing process. Let a Catholic Greetings e-card help you take this first step.




Come find us at: Facebook | St. Anthony Messenger magazine Twitter | American Catholic YouTube | American Catholic


An AmericanCatholic.org Site from the Franciscans and Franciscan Media Copyright © 1996 - 2015