Philomena Ending Explained & Plot Analysis

Philomena: what really happened to the heroine of the film Philomena (2013): what real story is the plot based on, content, meaning, explanation of the ending, similar films.

Country: UK, France, USA

Genre: drama, comedy

Year of production: 2013

Director: Stephen Frears

Actors: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Mare Winningham

Tagline: “These two unlikely companions are on a journey to find her long lost son”

Awards and nominations: In 2014, the film received 4 Oscar nominations and a prize for best screenplay in Venice.

The plot of the film “Philomena” tells the tragic story of a woman who survived real hell in a monastery shelter. The film addresses several issues at once, including the theme of the importance of religion in the lives of each of us.

The real story of Philomena

The plot of the film is based on real events. Philomena Lee grew up in a devout Irish family. In 1952, she met a handsome young man. A passionate romance broke out between them and eventually the girl became pregnant. When Aunt Philomena found out about this (the girl’s mother had died), she came up with the idea of ​​sending the “harlot” for re-education to the monastery of Sean Ross Abbey.

Judi Dench of Philomena
Judi Dench as Philomena Lee. Still from the film Philomena

At that time, society in Ireland was very religious and conservative. Children born outside the family were considered illegitimate and young mothers were forced to give them up for adoption.

When Philomena, who was 19 at the time, ended up in a convent, she was forced to sign an agreement according to which her child would go to live with a foster family after birth. When her son Anthony was 3 years old, he was adopted by a wealthy American couple. A little more than 2,000 pounds sterling (about $22,000) was paid for it.

The young woman was distraught with grief and life lost all meaning for her. She could not work and the nuns showed her the door.

Philomena, having experienced a strong crisis of faith, became disillusioned with religion. She went to England and got a job at a boys’ school. And then, realizing that she could and wanted to help other people, she got a job in a psychiatric clinic. After some time, life brought her together with journalist Martin Sixsmith, to whom she told her tragic story.

A little later, Philomena’s relatives founded a project called “Philomena Project”. Its purpose was to change Irish adoption law. Fortunately, after such a resonance (Philomena’s case became known all over the world), the country’s leadership met them halfway.

This story was the basis for Martin Sixsmith’s novel The Lost Child of Philomena Lee: Mother, Son and a Fifty-Year Search, on which the film was made.

What is the movie about

Brief description of the content of the film. Martin Sixsmith, a former government adviser, meets an elderly woman named Philomena Lee. About 50 years ago, she was forced to give up her little son for adoption, and now she wants to find him. Sincerely feeling sympathy and sympathy for her, Martin decides to help.

It turns out that in her youth Philomena met a cute young man, from whom she eventually became pregnant. The family considered her a slut and turned away from her. So the young girl ended up in a monastery, under the constant supervision of Sister Hildegard. She was forced to sign a contract according to which she had to give up any rights to the child.

Soon it was time to give birth. Philomena gave birth to a healthy boy and named him Anthony.

According to the requirements accepted at that time, the girl had to stay in the monastery for 4 years. She was not kept for free – she had to work in the laundry for food and shelter. She, like the rest of the “loose women,” was allowed to see the children only for 1 hour a day to feed them and clean up after them. The girl became very attached to the baby, but soon she was overcome by grief: Anthony (he was 3 years old by this time) and another girl were adopted by a rich American family. She was not even allowed to say goodbye to him… A little later, Philomena left the monastery. She tried to find her son, but she failed.

According to her daughter Jane, this can be tried now, and Martin agrees. Together they come to the monastery to meet Sister Hildegard, but due to her illness they are met by another nun – the friendly Sister Claire. She claims that all the documents on Anthony’s case were lost in the fire. Philomena is devastated, but Martin realizes that something is wrong. He asks Sister Claire to help him meet other nuns, but she suddenly starts to get into the bottle: this is unnecessary, all issues can be resolved with her.

Steve Coogan of Philomena
Steve Coogan played the role of Martin Sixsmith. Still from the film Philomena

Martin soon finds out that Anthony was not the only one who was “sold” to America – there were other children. The journalist suggests continuing the search in the United States, however, according to the country’s legislation, only the mother can do this.

Accompanied by Martin, Philomena arrives in America. Soon the journalist finds information about Mr. and Mrs. Hess, who 50 years ago adopted two children, Michael and Mary, in Ireland. Michael worked in the Reagan and Bush administrations, but passed away not long ago. He was born in 1952, and was brought to America in 1955.

Martin’s journalistic instinct tells him that Michael is Anthony. He shows Michael’s photo to Philomena and she suddenly recognizes him: “This is my Anthony,” she says. It pains Martin to say that Anthony has passed away, but she herself understands everything…

She wants to meet the people with whom Anthony was involved, and she decides to stay in America for some time. Martin is even happy about this – the publisher demands from him a hot report with revelations.

Philomena soon receives Mary’s phone number and learns that Anthony never spoke about her. She gets upset, but Martin suggests she find Anthony’s boyfriend (he was gay), Pete Olsson. After thinking, the woman agrees.

Pete refuses to talk to the journalist, but he is imbued with sincere sympathy for Philomena. He tells the woman that Anthony, already seriously ill, traveled to Ireland, went to the monastery where he was born and tried to find his mother. However, the nuns told him that they could not find her. Dying Anthony asked a friend to bury him in Ireland.

The circle is closed. Philomena and Martin return to the monastery – the journalist really wants to ask the “servants of God” a few questions…

meeting with a nun from the monastery of Philomena
Still from the film Philomena

Philomena Ending explained

Explanation of the ending of the picture. Martin finds Sister Hildegard and directly asks her why on earth she decided to try on the role of God and separated mother and son.

The old nun responds to this that she does not at all repent of what she did. According to her interpretation, Philomena and the other girls are to blame for their troubles, because they fornicated, that is, they sinned.

Martin demands an apology to Philomena, but then she intervenes. “I forgive you,” she says to sister Hildegard, and she suddenly somehow shrinks and wilts in her stroller. Then Philomena asks to show her her son’s grave – so she finally meets her Anthony…

“I wouldn’t forgive,” the enraged Martin rumbles. He decides that he will not write an essay, but Philomena herself asks him to do so. “People need to know what happened here,” she says.

Given that the world has learned this sad story, the meaning of the ending of the film “Philomena” is that justice has triumphed after all.

The meaning of the film Philomena

This film has a very interesting emotional design. The tragic story of Philomena is told in very restrained tones. There is no strain or overwhelming emotions in it, and this has a special, hidden meaning.

The director, without imposing anything, allows us to live and feel it in this way. This is truly a delicate work: it does not manipulate our mood and does not try to achieve an easy effect using any win-win techniques. Everything here is done very smartly and subtly, sincerely and truly. This approach always leaves room for speculation and interpretation. Thus, the work turns into an act of real cooperation, co-creation.

investigation of the main characters of  Philomena
Still from the film Philomena

Good Philomena, in search of the legitimate truth, constantly came across the absence in people of the very humanity that was inherent in herself. Watching this, I wanted to believe that she would understand that they had treated her truly monstrously and would act accordingly. However, in the finale, she made a choice in favor of forgiveness – wrong, illogical and outrageous. Why?

In their analysis of the film, many viewers note that the essence of the main character determines her name, that is, it contains the key to her character in general and the final decision in particular. The name Philomena is made up of two Greek words: phileo (love) and menos (strength).

“I wouldn’t forgive,” says an indignant Martin. She does not agree with him: she forgave – not because she is too soft. On the contrary, she does this because she is a strong personality and a very courageous person. In addition, this woman is a Christian and, unlike the nuns, she confirms her faith with actions. After all, Christ commanded to forgive enemies, which she did.

The viewer did not forgive, especially those who do not belong to any religion at all. And it’s difficult, actually. Because no religion in the world has the right to decide people’s destinies – there is legislation for this. The church is separated from the state, and the state from the church – this is exactly how things are now.

The mise-en-scène in which the main character forgives the nuns is the climax of this drama. It allows us to think about what we ourselves would do in such a situation. In the end, we are talking about human freedom and his ability to independently manage his life. Hardly anyone would like it if someone else suddenly starts solving these issues for them. However, in this film this is exactly what happens, and the main character, apparently wanting to finally part with the dark past, decides to act like a Christian.

heroes in front of the pedestal of Philomena
Still from the film Philomena 2013

The most interesting thing is that her solution is only one of several options. Of course, this is her story. However, the decision she made cannot be the only correct one. She chose to forgive the nuns, Martin decided otherwise and “glorified” them throughout the world. Each of them is right in their own way.

However, there is a third party – the viewer. We also have the right to consider the issues raised in the film and express our opinions. The picture allows us to clearly understand the possibility of “turning on” personal boundaries at the right time. This is its main advantage, and the essence of the film probably lies precisely in this. After all, it is very important, in fact, if necessary, to clearly and distinctly say: “This is my life and I will make the decision.” Otherwise, the arrogance shown here, born of impunity and self-righteousness, will live and flourish.

If we don’t want to live in a world where strangers can come into our lives and ruin it, we should keep this in mind.

The issues of faith, church and religion raised in the film are essentially labels for more universal ideas about morality and conscience. The example of the main character and the other characters shows us that we need to take responsibility for our moral choices on our own, without hiding behind God or anyone else. After all, responsibility is what makes us human.

old lady at the station of Philomena 2013
Still from the film Philomena

Similar films

Here are several films that are somewhat similar to the film “Philomena” in meaning and plot:

  • “Magdalene Sisters” (Great Britain, Ireland, 2002). Sixties. Three girls end up in the educational and correctional shelter of St. Magdalene at the Catholic Church and, after much humiliation, decide to escape.
  • “Sunshine and Oranges” (UK, Australia, 2010). The film raises the issue of government regulation of Britain’s demographic problem and talks about one of the biggest scandals in the modern history of Europe.
  • “Woman in Gold” (UK, 2015). The film tells the story of Maria Altmann. With the support of a lawyer, she tries to prove her rights to the heritage of her ancestors.
  • “Tablets of Fate” (Ireland, 2016). Roseanne McNulty spent most of her life in a mental hospital. The new doctor, becoming interested in his patient, soon learns her amazing secret.
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