Thursday 18 January 2018

Mary Kenny: Nuns didn't consign our Philomenas to cruel institutions - their families did

Judi Dench ( Philomena Lee) and Steve Coogan ( Martin Sixsmith) in PHILOMENA
Judi Dench ( Philomena Lee) and Steve Coogan ( Martin Sixsmith) in PHILOMENA
Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny

The movie 'Philomena' is starting to attract film awards -- nominated in both the Baftas and Golden Globes, it must surely be a candidate for a statuette at the Oscars in March. Dame Judi Dench certainly deserves an Oscar, for her tender, sympathetic, and sometimes funny portrayal of Philomena Lee, the Irishwoman who was forced to yield her child for adoption in the 1950s -- indeed, whose toddler son was snatched from her care and dispatched to a rich couple in America.

The movie, directed by Stephen Frears and also starring Steve Coogan -- in a spot-on performance as an opportunistic journalist with a bit of a heart -- is everywhere described as a "true story".

It is, broadly, a true story, though the truth has been amended to suit the purpose of the drama. The villain of the piece, the nun Sister Hildegarde, has been given lines to speak which she never said, and has had her life-span altered to provide a convenient configuration to the narrative. The good things that the real Hildegarde did are omitted -- and people who knew this nun in real life have given testimony to some of her good deeds.

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