I’ve watched the motion picture adaptation of The Lost Child of Philomena Lee twice in the last forty eights hours. Unlike many film adaptions I have seen, very nearly none of the scenes in Philomena are duplicated from the original book version. So, I felt the movie merited a second watch. And indeed, I did glean new details on the subsequent time around.
The true story is about a young lady in Ireland who is sent away to an Abbey by her family when they find out she is with child out of wedlock. Philomena gives birth to a baby boy named Anthony, and cares for him for nearly three years until he is adopted against her will to an American family (who rename him Michael). This is where the two stories diverge. The remainder of the scenes in the original printed telling comes to us mostly from Michael’s life. The film is shown from the viewpoints of both Philomena and the journalist author, Martin Sixsmith.
I am sure there have been instances where the two versions of a story have been told in opposing perspectives as this one has, however I can not think of any that have done it in such a successful way. Both versions are actually quite similar as far as the overarching facts, such as the outcome of the story, Philomena’s struggle with guilt, and Michael’s life direction.
Having read the book first, I found myself thinking that the movie would actually be a very good stand alone piece because it told a completely different side of the story than the book did. There were none of those cringeworthy scenes that are almost verbatim out of the book, but just condensed.
I did find that knowing the written version of events added such depth and context to everything in the film, even though there was little overlap. On the other hand, I appreciated the context brought to the book by learning about the experience of the author and Philomena as they searched and traced and pondered and argued about the direction to head with the project, and even whether or not to publish it at all. There was a fair amount of not-quite-agreement between the two of them actually.
I trust that because the real life characters are still around, I suspect there would have been a good amount of input on their part for the movie, as no scenes with both Martin and Phil appeared in his writings.
And since the film seems to build upon the details in the book, and the book definitely builds upon the story in the film, I recommend that you take the time to get through both. Some say that the book was disappointing because it was completely different from the film. But I say, in this case, that’s a very good thing since both offer different insights into the story; and both are very worth the time to discover them.