Philomena – Interview with Steve Coogan

Click thru for our review and interview with Steve Coogan.


From The Weinstein Company:

"Based on the 2009 investigative book by BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith, The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, PHILOMENA focuses on the efforts of Philomena Lee (Dench), mother to a boy conceived out of wedlock — something her Irish-Catholic community didn't have the highest opinion of — and given away for adoption in the United States."

Talented comedian/actor/writer Steve Coogan optioned Sixsmith's book without reading it.  He read an article about the story and was moved to get the rights to the script.  His ambitious move has lead to a wonderful film.

The film beautifully mixes the harsh realities that the Irish-Catholic church put on young pregnant women and the back-and-forth friendship Philomena has with Sixsmith.  Coogan's natural comedic style is a perfect match for Dame Dench's remarkable transformation into Philomena.  Add in the bold direction of Stephen Frears who's ability to add perspective and clarity completes the movie.  The Journey we witness has such a subtle ebb-and-flow nature that you don't fully grasp the powerful tragedy that is unfolding.  The more we learn of Philomena and Sixsmith the harsher the reality of what happened becomes.  It's a film that is a good drama with nice comedic undertones, but it fully suceeds in being a heart-breaking tale of a dark time in Irish history.

My three favorite moments or themes from the film:

3. The class difference between Philomena and Sixsmith is slowly broken down and mingled together as they come to appreciate and care about one another.  Coogan's quips at Philomena start out quite crass and without merit, but as his character comes to like her those comments stop.  He starts to realize the lack of depth to his being a class above her.  She suprises him with her take on the world and her strong amazing will power.

2.  Anger.  Philomena deals with each moment of revelation without the slightest bit of anger towards the church.  It's a dynamic that really carries the film.  She can't be mad at God and The Church as they are one in the same to her.  Where Sixsmith is mad at both equally and even after he sees her will power stay consistent he can't help but react.  It's his anger that takes them further and further.  He does have is moment of anger at the head nun, but even with that moment it's Philomena's love that really opens him up.  Quite a powerful and intelligent message that the film leaves you with.

1. Friendship.  Coogan's Sixsmith is still angry about his fall from grace and the way he is now perceived.  He must conquer his own lossed self-esteem as well as his own belief in anything.  Philomena's tough choice to finally find her long lost son is based in her starting to fear death.  She tackles her own fears of who her son has become.  The journey they share completes their transformations but only through their bonding is it fully gained.  Neither expects a friendship to occur and yet we, the audience, are treated to this cute courtship.  As they break down their walls to each other they are breaking down their internal walls that haunt them.  It's a very cathartic film in this sense and mixed in with the Frears subtle directing it's turned into a wonderful gem of a film.

Steve came to Dallas for publicity of the film earlier this month and here is my interview with him.


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