Judi Dench as Irish woman searching for son grips Venice

Sat Aug 31, 2013 12:28pm EDT
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By Isla Binnie

VENICE (Reuters) - Judi Dench brought pathos and laughter to Venice on Saturday with her performance in the title role of "Philomena", the true story of an Irish woman who searches for the son who was taken from her and sold by nuns.

Pope Francis, who has taken over a Catholic Church beset by scandal, should watch the film, director Stephen Frears said.

"I'm very keen that the Pope should see it," he said.

"Philomena" debuted at the Venice film festival alongside James Franco's "Child of God", the chilling tale of a cave-dwelling necrophiliac, and "Night Moves" about three eco-warriors who plot to blow up a dam.

Asked why he had made a film about such a taboo subject, Franco said it had provided a way "for me to examine something that's pushed out of civilized society".

"Philomena" is based on "The Lost Child of Philomena Lee", the 2009 book by Martin Sixsmith which prompted thousands of adopted Irish children and their mothers to come forward and tell their stories.

Philomena goes to America to look for her son with world-weary journalist Sixsmith, played by co-writer Steve Coogan, creating what Frears describes as "an odd-couple film, an extraordinary road trip".

"I really liked the British humor which contrasts with the religious issues," said Jacopo Mascholini, a 22-year-old student from Rome who attended the screening.   Continued...

Actress Judi Dench poses during a photocall for the movie "Philomena", directed by Stephen Frears, during the 70th Venice Film Festival in Venice August 31, 2013. The movie debuts at the festival. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi