15 December 2014

The Power Of Faith

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Back in the day there was a man who was rather like a real life version of Father Christmas!! Jimmy Saville made children's dreams come true and raised so many millions for charities that you'd think he was a modern-day saint. Also, he was a raging pedophile and seemed to make no attempt to hide that fact. I was born after his popularity and so to me, Saville just looked like a creepy old fucker who couldn't have appeared more sinister had he presented his television shows whilst fingering his belly button and dribbling onto his pedo-bling. Aside from a few political connections and an apparent conspiracy of pedophile entertainers, it seems that Saville convinced people that he wasn't a nonce by doing his absolute best to seem exactly like one. For me this is very much how the Church seems to work. People worry about these shadowy groups that control the world from behind the scenes. Is it a secret Government organisation? The Illuminati? The Masons? Meanwhile there's a fucking great big shrine to the magical Jesus in almost every village in our country. On the surface it pretends to be all about spreading good-will and acceptance of all of God's children. Below this however it is a woman hating, gay hating, money obsessed organisation that is more than plagued by its own homegrown infestation of kiddie-rapists. I don't think that religion is bad. I think that some people are bad and that they use their faith in the make-believe sky lord as a justification for being massive evil cunts. Anyway, this all quite clearly leads us to the lighthearted comedy, drama, film, Philomena.
Philomena tells the true story of an elderly Irish lady’s search for the son who was stolen from her fifty years earlier. As a younger girl, she was sent to an Abbey by her father after the evil young bitch had dared to have sex and accidentally get pregnant. Whilst at the Abbey she was forced to work under slave-like conditions and was only allowed to see her newly born child for one hour every day. She can only leave this situation when she can afford to buy her way out however before this is even possible, the Nuns have had her child adopted and shipped off to America without her getting a single say in the matter. Apparently this was a sickeningly common occurrence back in this 1950's Ireland. Decades roll by with the now-elderly woman wracked by guilt having been brainwashed by the catholic church to believe that all of her actions were a sin and that she deserves what she got. Thankfully however, this victim of God's mad cult found the strength to tell her story to her daughter, who told the journalist Martin Sixsmith who thinks it'd make a good article and so decides to help. As anybody who lives in this world and has eyes good enough to see a random bus poster will be able to tell you, Philomena is played by the always perfect Judi Dench and the difficult role of the determined journalist is only Alan bloody Partridge...A-ha!!!!

So I suppose first thing is first and beyond anything else, the most important question that should be asked is, is Philomena a good film? Well, I would say it absolutely is. It's a comedy that was funny enough to make me laugh out loud on several occasions and it's effectively tragic enough that it also brought a tear to my eye. Obviously the tears were because I had something in my eye and not because I was crying. I mean that should go without saying... Jesus! As for it being funny- well, there's almost no way it couldn't be, I suppose. I'm a fan of Steve Coogan and so to know that he also wrote the movie is a pretty decent indication of its quality. Yes, he's done crap like Around The World In 80 Days and Night At The Museum but you can tell simply from the posters that they were done for the money. At the end of the day, I suppose rehab doesn't pay for itself. When he actually gives a shit however, you get the genius that is evident in his TV work; Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, A Cock And Bull Story and now also Philomena. Aside from Rupert Murdock, I also don't know who couldn't have enjoyed Coogan's excellent reality TV drama ‘The Leveson Inquiry which was crammed full of celebrity cameos and even featured a career-best performance from Hugh Grant. 
Anyway, back to the point... So if Coogan is some assurance that the film will be funny, I suppose that it's the source material that guarantees its more dramatic qualities. It's one of those films that is made all the more powerful by the fact that it is a true story. I watched this wracked with empathy for Judi Dench's Philomena and filled with anger for what was done to her. Obviously it also helps I suppose that Dench is so good at what she does that she makes most other actors look like googly-eyed turds in a circus mirror by comparison. The story too is so shocking, with so many twists and turns that you could easily take out the comedy, set it in the 50's, have it directed by a man known for sodomising a child and I reckon you'd have a pretty decent Chinatown-esque detective story. As it happens, it was in fact directed instead by Stephen Freers who perfectly balances the grim with the funny and knows that the heart of the story is the relationship between Coogan and Dench. It might sound hard going with its evil Nuns and cradle-snatching story but in reality the film focuses just as much on their relationship as anything else. She's a wide-eyed and full of life old lady and he's a younger, much more cynical man. In this odd-couple dynamic, I suppose it kind of calls to mind the relationship in Harold And Maude which is one of my all time favorite films, although to be fair, here there is more of a mutual respect for one another than a desire to fall in love and indulge in a spot of granny fucking. 

Since the film’s release, Philomena has been met with some criticism from certain God-obsessed individuals who consider it to be anti-Catholic propaganda. But is this true? From my opening rant you might assume that I've already picked my side and so anything I say in defense of the film is simply because of my own bias. Well, deal with it. Is this film really anti-Catholic propaganda? No, but I'm glad that they think it is. The film simply tells the true story of the scummy-as-shit things that those bastard nuns did and so to refer to it as being anti-Catholic at least suggests that people of that religion are aware that it has something to be ashamed about. Did the people involved all do what this film portrays them as doing? Yes. Then fuck them- they deserve all the bad press that they get. However considering what went on, you could actually view it as being just as much pro-faith as against it. Firstly there is at least one nun who saves a picture of the young baby for Philomena to keep which shows that although the religion as an organisation might be fucked, there are still individuals in it who aren't. Secondly, Philomena herself never loses her faith throughout all the bullshit she has to crawl through. The woman has literally gone through Hell but because of her belief in God, she still has nothing but forgiveness for those who have wronged her. I mean, fucking hell, if I was her, I'd lock the doors to that monastery and find out if the punchline to that old joke is true... ‘What's black and white and red all over? A nun chewing razor blades’... well let's fucking see, shall we?

If I have any slight criticism of this film, it is perhaps in one of the scenes at the end in which the most evil nun argues her case as to why she did what she did. The only issue I have with this is that this is a real woman who is being portrayed however this conversation never really took place. In reality, at this point in the story, that nun had already died and so in a sense I suppose Coogan and his writing partner are putting words into her mouth. Although even this only serves to highlight the power of Dench's Philomena's faith and so again it can't be said that we aren't being given both sides of the coin. You can argue that we are only seeing it predominantly from the perspective of the victim however I honestly can't see a single way in which those wrong-doers could justify their actions. Philomena is a heartbreaking drama, a hilarious comedy, a gripping mystery and a touching love story between two people who develop a strong caring for one another. The real tragedy isn't that somebody made a film that hurt a religions feelings but that, even now, a real woman has had her life devastated and still believes it to be her own fault. Even if I did believe in all of that God bollocks, I think this story alone would be enough for me to denounce the organisation and simply practice my faith in my own private way. But then, I suppose that's a logical thing to do and since when did logic ever come into this? Thanks for reading, motherfuckers, and see you next time.  


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