New film Philomena, co-written by, and starring Steve Coogan, won the best screenplay award at this year’s Venice Film Festival. Indeed, one critic called it “the best reaction to a film since the first screening of The King’s Speech”.
The film, by Stephen Frears, adapts the real-life story uncovered by former BBC News journalist Martin Sixsmith, which he recounts in the book ‘The Lost Child of Philomena Lee’.
Falling pregnant as a teenager in Ireland in 1952, Philomena Lee (played by Judi Dench) was sent to the convent of Roscrea to be looked after as a ‘fallen woman’. When her baby was a toddler, he was whisked away by the nuns to America for adoption. Philomena spent the next fifty years searching for him in vain.
Then she met Martin Sixsmith (played by Coogan), a cynical, world-weary journalist. Together they set off for America to find Philomena’s son (you can see a trailer for the film below:)
Coogan has said of the film: “It’s not our intention to hammer the Catholic church of 50 years ago, times were different. But two wrongs took place here – one that Philomena was forced to give up her child, and secondly that they refused to reunite the pair. I hope that though we criticise the institution, we dignify people of faith.”
News of the screenwriting award has been followed by the announcement that the two Philomena writers, Coogan and Jeff Pope, are to reunite on another project. London-based producer, Gabrielle Tana has said of the new project, “It’s something that Steve is going to write with Jeff Pope, that we are developing with BBC Films. It’s an original idea that Steve has had and he and Jeff are going to write that. It’s a drama with a comic quality, set in the UK.”
Of his win at the Venice Film festival, Tana added, “I think it proves that he’s capable of being much more than a funny guy and when we set out on this journey that was the desired effect…he has been pigeon-holed and I think he can do other things and this shows that.”