Today I went to see Philomena at an early Saturday showing with only three other people in the theater. The setting matched the intimacy of the film.
Spoiler alert: While I won’t reveal the entire plot, don’t read further if you plan to see the film and don’t want to know any of the crucial details beforehand.
Judi Dench’s performance in the title role is outstanding. It must be difficult to play a role based on a real, still-living person, but I found her portrayal of Philomena to be compelling and relatable. Philomena’s long-standing pain and guilt, enforced by the Church, society, and her lived experience, were palpable and made her indecision about how far to take the search for her son and his loved ones understandable.
What was most meaningful to me was the contrast between those who had hardened their hearts and were mired in being judgmental and unforgiving and Philomena, who was open to love and so was able to forgive those who took her son away from her and kept her from finding him in this life. Her ability to show mercy enabled her to find peace. That she was able to know that her son had loved her and Ireland and had searched for her as she had for him felt like it was not only a comfort but also a reward from God for her steadfast love.
Philomena, whose name can be translated as “powerful love,” was the one who taught us about God, mercy, family bonds, love, and forgiveness.