independent

Saturday 25 October 2014

'Philomena' tipped for Oscar win

Marisa Reidy

Published 06/11/2013 | 05:36

Dame Judi Dench and Philomena Lee at a screening of ‘Philomena’ during the 57th BFI London Film Festival.

SCREEN idol Dame Judi Dench is tipped for Oscar success for her heartbreaking portrayal of a Newcastle West woman who was forced by nuns to give up her son, who then died before they were ever reunited.

SCREEN idol Dame Judi Dench is tipped for Oscar success for her heartbreaking portrayal of a Newcastle West woman who was forced by nuns to give up her son, who then died before they were ever reunited.

The poignant story of West Limerick woman Philomena Lee's search for her son hit the big screens around Ireland at the weekend, and the film has been given the thumbs up by Ms Lee herself, according to the film's leading lady.

Speaking on The Graham Norton show on BBC at the weekend, Judi Dench said the most important thing for her was that Ms Lee was happy with her portrayal - and she was.

"The thing I'm most thrilled about is that it's about somebody who is alive - a very, very remarkable person - and the thing is she's very pleased," she said. "When you're making a film about somebody who is alive and present and near you, living and breathing and other people know them, then you have a huge responsibility to be very, very honest and truthful about their story. And once she liked it that was fine for me."

The film '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 surprisingly humorous, won the best screenplay award at this year's Venice Film Festival and is now tipped for Oscar success.

Kerryman

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