Mar 172014

PhilomenaThis film was fine, and I suppose I liked it well enough, but I honestly can’t account for its popularity. Its characters are ultimately incoherent to me, and I can’t understand why I am supposed to care about any of them.

The writer: does he have anything but contempt for Philomena, even at the end? I don’t think so.

And the son’s lover: why would he not see Philomena when she shows up, given that he and her son spent years trying desperately to find her?

And Philomena: she serves as the film’s emotional core and seems as if she should elicit our pity or sympathy. Yet the film’s and Judi Dench’s portrayal of her insist clearly that in fact Philomena doesn’t want either. And so, I’m left thinking, “ok, then I don’t pity you. Glad things seem to have worked out for you. Since you think they have.”

I suspect that part of my difficulty is that this is a film about a few bad nuns. It refuses to confront the religious world view that creates Philomena’s problems. Philomena never gains any insight into that world view or her commitment to it. So I’m left thinking that the film, like Philomena, wants to accuse and then forgive a few bad people without ever critiquing or changing anything that matters.

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