Will We Ever Know the Truth?

According to a recent article on Time, a newspaper reporter was ranked as the worst job in America for the third year in a row. Out of a total of 10 professions, the job of broadcaster was, similarly, ranked at number three. Both professions report a poor growth outlook of -9%, statistics that could probably be borne out in the film, Truth, a story about a television news team who lose their jobs over a controversial news piece. The story is set during the upcoming 2004 presidential elections in the USA. The CBS 60 Minutes team at the time compile a report on President George Bush’s shady military past, alleging that the incumbent president had, in his youth, used his privileged connections to avoid being drafted into the war against Vietnam.

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Cate Blanchett in Truth. Image: supplied by Ster Kinekor.

The team’s whole premise is based on documents obtained from a “secret” source. And it is these documents that prove to be the downfall of the piece. The story is ultimately pulled, CBS makes a public apology and all the team members lose their jobs.

Cate Blanchett is cast as the hardworking producer of 60 Minutes, Mary Mapes. Whilst Blanchett presents a really strong performance I’m not convinced she manages to pull Mapes off to the full. As Mapes, Blanchett is a middle-of-the-road character with untidy hair and cheap make-up – somewhat different to the roles I have seen this poised and sophisticated actress usually play.

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Dennis Quaid in Truth. Image: supplied by Ster Kinekor

The story, likewise, just isn’t weighty enough. Yes, any kind of cheating by the leader of a country, has wider consequences than simply pre-election scandal. But in countries where the actions of elected officials involve bribery and corruption on a much larger scale, Bush’s evasion of the military seems a little tame.

But then, perhaps my response indicates the very strength of Truth. In this movie we see just enough of the reporters’ working techniques to doubt the thoroughness of their investigative work. Likewise, we see just enough of the corresponding shut down of the story to question what really was the truth. How serious was the evidence? The question remains unanswered.

Truth opens at cinemas in South Africa on 10 June and is worthwhile viewing.

Philomena a touching film, but puzzling at the climax

A review by Brenda Daniels

Philomena, starring Dame Judi Dench in the title role, is a drama based on a true story. Its plot revolves around Irishwoman Philomena Lee’s search for her son, adopted when he was just four. Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), a former British Labour Party member, writes her story and helps her in her search.

The story was eventually published (in real life) and revealed the shocking practice of a Catholic convent’s cruelty towards unwed mothers and their babies during the 1950s.

Philomena is played by two actresses – Sophie Kennedy Clark as the young Philomena and Dench as the 70-year-old Philomena. Philomena, along with other young women like herself, was sent to a convent in Roscrea, Tipperary, as penance for falling pregnant out of wedlock. Here the girls are made to work hard and allowed to see their children for only an hour a day.

Gradually, the children mysteriously disappear, ostensibly adopted by wealthy couples, without the mothers’ permissions.

Having always longed to find her son, Philomena, now 70, accidentally comes across Sixsmith, who she enlists to write her story. Martin is a typically cynical journalist, more so because he was recently “given the sack”.

Philomena is a simple, forgiving Irish woman with a firm Catholic faith despite the startling cruelty the convent meted out to her. The two characters and their differing reactions to events create the tension – and humour – in the story.

The pair’s search takes them to the USA where they find traces of Anthony (Philomena’s name for her son) or Michael (as he was renamed). It is while in the USA that the story takes a revealing turn, sending Philomena and Sixsmith back to the Irish convent where their investigations first began.

Despite physically speaking to people in America, I thought Martin and Philomena’s visit to the States a bit unrealistic, given today’s worldwide web search capabilities. I also found the penultimate scene in the film a puzzling one. It at once reveals Philomena’s poignant grace and takes the oomph out of an otherwise beautifully told, very touching story.

Philomena is rated 13L, runs for one and a half hours and opened at NuMetro theatres in South Africa on 28 March.

Judi Dench plays the leading role in Philomena. Dench has been nominated for several awards for the role.

Judi Dench plays the leading role in Philomena. Dench has been nominated for several awards for the role.