The Real-Life Philomena: 'You See So Much Hurt Caused by Anger'

Jane: Well, you told me. You came out to see me. I’d just moved house and renovated it. And my mom, you’d [just] been to Ireland, and you said, “Oh, I’ll pop around and see you.” It was slightly unusual because we normally meet in the day, and you were feigning interest in my decor. I just had some new light switches. I remember it very clearly. You looked at them said, “They’re very nice.” You’re not really into that kind of thing.

Philomena: Not decorating, no.

Jane: So she sat down, and we did open a bottle of wine, and she just came out with it. “I had a baby in Ireland,” I think is what you said. But immediately I knew who this child was because we always had his photograph in with all the other family photos. He always looked like he was in an odd place because he’s got nuns with him, or he looks like he’s in a hospital. I had asked you once when I was a child, and you said it was a cousin’s son, and I didn’t think anything more of that. But I felt immediately sorry for her, because I’ve got children, and he was three and a half when he was adopted. I couldn’t imagine having to give a child away at that age. It would just be awful.

Philomena: Awful, awful.

Jane: Clearly you would have bonded with him because they’re little people at that age.

Philomena: He was a lovely, lovely little boy.

What was it like seeing the movie for the first time?

Philomena: We didn’t know what to make of it, did we? We saw it together.

Jane: It was very hard to judge whether it was good or not because we’d been so involved in it. We met the next day at lunch and I said, “I think it’s okay? I think we’ll be alright with this film.” But we couldn’t tell. People asked me if it was good and I said, “I don’t know. I couldn’t tell you if it was good.”

Philomena: We couldn’t!

Jane: It took a couple viewings. Then it went to the Venice Film Festival and received such fantastic reviews. I started reading the reviews to mom, and we could see why people liked it. But it took other people to point us in the right direction.

But you’ve come to enjoy it?

Jane: Yes, we certainly laughed.

Philomena: Oh yes, it’s very funny.

Jane: Life’s not all doom and gloom.

It was already such a tough, emotional movie to watch, it would have been a lot harder without those funnier moments.

Philomena: The thing is, I found him. And the whole of my life, all I wanted was to find him. Finding out he was dead was very hard, but at least I found him. I used to think over the years he could be in Vietnam, he could be on Skid Row. It’s the not knowing. But once I found out how successful he was, then I was able to put my heart to rest and my mind to rest. At least he had a very good life and a wonderful partner. And I’m sure, up there, he helped me to start this 10 years ago. I believe that.

Mari: He’d be so pleased.

Jane: I think he’d be pleased, being a political man.

Philomena: I’m sure he is. The thing is, I’m sure because about one year [before finding him], maybe less than that, I started going back to mass. I had given up going to mass and communion and confession. Somehow or another I said, “I think I’ll start going back.” I went to mass at the beautiful abbey near where we lived. They had a Catholic mass every Friday morning. I joined that and got back in there, and I’d go down and light my candle in this beautiful place. Somehow after this, my brother said to me, “Will you go back home and tell your daughter?” after I started [getting that] feeling. I’m sure Anthony was up there.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Nolan Feeney is a former producer for TheAtlantic.com.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Entertainment

Just In