NEWS — 13 November 2013

Judi Dench (Philomena Lee) and Steve Coogan (Martin Sixsmith)

By Shelley Marsden

THE order of nuns which the film Philomena portrays has accused its makers of depicting one of their members in a bad light.

Philomena, which its makers say is based on true events, has been criticised by the order for one scene which they argue portrays the sister in question in a negative way.

Based on the book by journalist Martin Sixsmith and starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, the film is about an Irishwoman who was sent to one of the notorious institutions known as ‘Magdalene Laundries’ and her subsequent attempts to find her adopted son.

After Philomena fell pregnant, she was sent to a home for unmarried mothers run by Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Roscrea, County Tipperary.  It was during her time here that her son, Anthony, was put up for adoption to a couple in America.

In the film, the sisters are seen as blocking Philomena and her son’s attempts to find each other. It also presents them as burning records and accepting money to put children up for adoption.

In the closing scene one of the nuns, Sr Hildegard McNulty is confronted by Mr Sixsmith for allegedly obstructing Philomena’s attempts to find her son, to which Sr Hildegard then cruelly assesses Philomena as letting her “carnal” desires take over.

Sr Julie Rose, assistant congregational leader in the order, has told Catholic publication The Tablet that the film company wrote to the order to say this meeting – which does not appear in the book – - had been added to the film version for reasons of “dramatic licence.”, adding that the film “does not tell the whole truth and in many ways is very misleading.”

She said the order had requested a copy of the film script and for a delay in its release so that they were able to respond, but were unsuccessful in their attempts.

Sr Julie told the paper that Sr Hildegarde, who died in 1995 (long before Sixsmith made his visit to Ireland), was in fact instrumental in reuniting lot of mothers with their children.

In addition, Sr Julie denied that the order destroyed any records held by them and said that they never received payment in relation to an adoption.

In Martin Sixsmith’s book, after a visit to the Roscrea convent he describes the nuns as “lovely” and calls the mother superior “a friendly, educated woman … who had devoted her life to the care of disadvantaged and disabled people.”

Philomena, which is already being tipped as an Oscar contender, is currently showing in cinemas across the UK and Ireland.

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