A mother in search of her son who had been stolen

Directed by Stephen Frears – 2013 – UK, France, USA - 98 min


2022 March 02 | by Arduino Mancini Diversity - Motivation - Women's Stories

What does a woman searching for her stolen son and a journalist in the middle of a professional crisis have in common?

The film’s screenplay is based on Martin Sixsmith’s novel The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, which was released in 2013 along with the film.

Philomena is an Irish woman who had a baby when she was a teenager and was forced by her family to give birth in the convent of Roscrea; the young woman was given in foster care to the nuns of the convent and, after giving birth to little Anthony with breech birth and without anaesthesia, she remains in the convent in a state of substantial segregation aimed at the exploitation of her labour.

Philomena is forced to work hard all day to spend an hour with her child, who one day is given up for adoption to an American family; and fifty years later the woman finally decides to reveal her secret to her daughter Jane and set out in search of her lost son.

It is thanks to Jane that the paths of Philomena and Martin Sixsmith, a BBC journalist who has recently lost his job as communication consultant to the government headed by Tony Blair.

Martin is in a critical moment in his life, which needs a new direction, and after an initial moment of reluctance, he decides to help Philomena find Antony: in fact, the man needs to find a job and the newspaper that hired him believes that Philomena’s story can bring out something good.

The investigation centres around three questions:

  1. Who is Anthony?
  2. Has he become an important man, or does he lead an ordinary existence?
  3. What if he has become a bum?

The questions and the need to dig into the past to capture details useful to the investigation lead Philomena to remember the painful period spent in the convent; the work, the humiliations, the sin expiation. But the investigation ends in a dead-end when they encounter the nuns, who claim not to possess the adoption papers because they were destroyed in a fire.

Nevertheless, Martin and Philomena manage to gather helpful information and…

At this point I’ll stop because I don’t want to take away your enjoyment of the story: now watch the trailer, then some thoughts.


How to Watch the Movie

Impressive in the film’s opening is Martin’s state of mind:

  • How do you feel when you’ve been ousted from such a significant assignment?
  • What sense can there be in the decision to relaunch one’s career by writing an essay on Russian history?

The journalist seems hesitant, not sure of his plans and Philomena’s story seems to give him back that pinch of adrenaline that gives back flavour to his life.

Dramatic details about the life in the Roscrea convent, where Philomena and many other girls were forced to work hard, one day losing their son because given up for adoption in exchange for money: it is incredible the pain that some people can do to others in the name of God and the expiation of sins they have set themselves up as judges.

And all without ever a breath of doubt or compassion.

The investigation leads Martin to discover Anthony’s identity, his life, his career and Philomena also discovers his homosexuality, which she accepts with serenity and is sheltered from any prejudice.

Above all, the woman’s search is rewarded by the fact that her son had never stopped looking for her and it was only because of the lies that the nuns had told him that they never found each other.

A film that I suggest you see to understand the damage that can be done by people who think they can dispense rewards and punishments, taking advantage that ” When God is silent, you can make him say whatever you want him to say.” (Jean-Paul Sartre).



Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Anna Maxwell Martin, Mare Winningham, Michelle Fairley, Ruth McCabe

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