Philomena is a dramatic film based on a true history about Philomena Lee’s journey to find the son that she was forced to give up for adoption. Her history was written by a journalist Martin. Together they start the search for her son Anthony Lee. Taking as a starting point Ireland’s religious rule in the 50s, the conflicts between Philomena and Sixsmith, and the discovery of an intriguing story, the film Philomena is full of surprises.
In 1951 Philomena becomes pregnant after having sex with an unknown man at a fair. Her father sends her to a convent in Ireland. In the convent she is forced to work in a laundry with other girls who are in the same condition. She is only allowed to be with her son for one hour per day. But her son is given for adoption and the nuns do not even give her the chance to say goodbye to him.
Philomena keeps her sad secret for around fifty years. She has a photo of Anthony given to her by a nun who was kind to her. She shows this picture to her daughter who decides to help her mother to find Anthony. They ask Martin Sixsmith, who resists initially because he does not like to work with personal histories. But he eventually signs a contract with a publisher and commits to writing her history.
Philomena and Sixsmith go to the convent where the nuns talk about a fire that conveniently destroyed all the documents they need to find Michael. However Sixsmith discovers her new son`s name was changed to Michael Hess, he had become a lawyer, and had worked for the Reagan and Bush administrations. He also discovers that Michael was gay and had died of AIDS a few years previously. Through Michael`s ex- boyfriend, they learn that Michael tried to discover about his past three times by visiting the convent. There, he was told that he was abandoned by his mother. Michael lived out his last days in the convent and is buried there but the nuns never mentioned this to Philomena.
Philomena never gets the opportunity to meet her son after he is taken from her. Yet she stays strong through many unexpected challenges. She is always ready to forgive the nuns and never loses her faith in God despite all that happens. She is stronger than she appears to be. Looking at her son´s eyes in his pictures she knows the son never forgot her.