December 6, 2013

My Review of Philomena (No Spoilers!)

This past Tuesday I went to see Philomena with some friends from Adoptee Restoration Tampa Bay. We met for dinner a few hours beforehand and caught up on our lives before we settled in at the theater. 

After discovering we all like our popcorn drenched with butter, we got a huge stack of napkins, not just for buttery fingers but for what we already knew was going to be an emotional flick.

Photo Credit: Sarah_Ackerman, Flickr
After 213 previews, only slightly exaggerated, Philomena finally began and we braced ourselves for the emotional rollercoaster we willingly and even excitedly paid for.  I usually don't pay for triggers. This was an exception.''

Judi Dench plays Philomena Lee in this  British drama film directed by Stephen Frears, based upon the book, The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by Martin Sixsmith. The movie tells the true story of Philomena Lee's 50-year-long search for her son Anthony (renamed Michael by his adoptive parents), after being forced to give him up for adoption because she was not married. 

The injustices this film exposes are many and they are captured with excellence. Judi Dench gives a stellar performance and deserves every accolade coming to her.

During much of the movie, I could hear my friends gasping or openly weeping.

My reaction to triggers has changed over time. I am affected more now with pain in my upper body. Thankfully I’m not triggered too often anymore. (I stay away from triggers as a general rule.) When the movie increased in intensity, I found myself rubbing my neck, back, shoulders and chest. I could literally feel Philomena’s pain as well as Anthony’s.     

Baby Scoop Era (BSE) first mothers and adoptees will especially relate to Philomena. I found myself wondering what others would think or feel at many points in the movie and had to keep reeling myself back in to the story and not dwell so much on the possible reactions of others.

Speaking of reactions, we noticed women we assumed to be first moms or adoptees in the theater with us. Of course they bore no sign that told us that, nor did they say anything. One of them was accompanied by a boyfriend or husband who appeared to be comforting her, even before the movie started. The reactions before, during and after the movie weren’t the typical ones I see when I go to other movies.

When the movie ended we sat there through all the credits, just silently taking it in. Afterwards we went to the restrooms and I noticed another lady who was in the theater with us in the restroom washing her hands…and face. Her eyes were red and she was crying. Again, not the typical reaction I see when I go to the movies. Nobody was doing that after Hunger Games or Catching Fire.

Our group went out for coffee, to process the movie together. We ended up staying out until 3 AM, working through our thoughts about what we had seen. 

 Triggers happened at different points of the movie for all of us and I found the diversity of what we were all most affected by very interesting.

For instance, there was a moment where Philomena was at a salad bar talking about food with Martin. In the same moment she spoke of that, she took his hand and talked about her son. I didn’t even notice anything special about that scene, but it profoundly triggered one of my friends who said, “That’s what being adopted is like. One moment you’re getting a salad and talking about tomatoes and stuff and in the same moment your thoughts are also going to your first mom who you are searching for, have never met in your adult life, but you think about constantly.” 

I found myself getting angry during the movie, particularly about the shaming of Philomena, the sealed records and many lies the nuns told. As a BSE adoptee, it wasn’t just the story on the screen that affected me.  I was constantly thinking, “Some people still think this is okay...” during the movie.  I couldn’t help it. As ugly as the portrayal of those who perpetrated the injustice was, I knew all the while that there are people who justify what happened during the BSE and some who still want it to continue.

When I came home, I researched reviews and articles on line and sure enough, there were idiots who said things like, “I believe the movie is too harsh on the Catholic Church. Those nuns were doing a good work. They were just trying to give those kids both a mother and a father.”   


I read four or five of those kind of comments on reviews and snapped my laptop shut.

It became increasingly difficult to scroll while massaging the pain out of my upper body at the same time. 

How any human being on the face of the planet can watch Philomena and think the behavior of the nuns and priests was appropriate AT ALL, I just don’t understand.

It was for reason of knowing that this thinking and behavior still exists in the world today that I drove home with tears flowing down my face, after I said goodbye to my friends at 3 AM.

We’ve got to keep going.
Progress is being made.  

Movies like Philomena are part of that.
Each of us has a unique role to play.

We need to do our part to be the change we want to see in the world.