independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

'Philomena' nominated for four BAFTA awards

Actress Dame Judi Dench and Philomena Lee attend the ‘Philomena’ American Express Gala screening during the 57th BFI London Film Festival last October. Photo: Getty

AN acclaimed film that tells the story of a Newcastle West woman who was forced by nuns to give up her son, has been nominated for four BAFTAs.

AN acclaimed film that tells the story of a Newcastle West woman who was forced by nuns to give up her son, has been nominated for four BAFTAs.

Dame Judy Dench, who plays the role of Philomena Lee, has been shortlisted in the best actress category, while the film was also nominated for Best Film, Outstanding British Film and adapted screenplay.

'Philomena' tells the story of how, in the early 1950s, Ms Lee was sent to live with the nuns at Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea, after she became pregnant at the age of 18.

She worked in the convent laundry and reared her son, Anthony, for over three years until the nuns 'sold' the child to an American couple looking to adopt him. That was Christmas 1955.

Four years later Ms Lee moved to Liverpool and married and had two more children, but she spent her life searching for her long lost son.

Anthony - who was renamed Michael Hess by his new family - had also been searching for his mother and returned to the convent in Tipperary three times.

Both were told by the nuns that there was nothing they could do.

Michael Hess went on to become a hugely successful lawyer in the US, working as White House legal counsel under President Regan and President Bush Snr.

Tragically, he contracted HIV and died in 1995 - never having met his real mother with whom he so desperately sought to be reunited.

In the film, actor Steve Coogan plays BBC journalist Martin Sixsmith, who helped Ms Lee in her search and wrote a book about her story, entitled 'The Lost Child of Philomena Lee'.

The film, which is both harrowing and at times humorous, won the best screenplay award at this year's Venice Film Festival and is also tipped for Oscar success.

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