Truth should not suffer for film drama

Dear Editor, The makers of the recent film Philomena have been careful to point out that it is a drama not a documentary, however, in general drama is far more effective in conveying emotion than documentaries and also is not burdened with the need to remain true to the facts. For example according to The Guardian newspaper the film-makers “resuscitated Sr Hildegarde (who in real life died in 1995, long before Sixsmith’s visit) to act as the principal villain and embodiment of all the Catholic Church’s most vicious tendencies. This makes for a dynamic and gripping screen story, but it’s harsh on the real Sr Hildegarde.

“Judging by the book, she may well have been a tough old bird – but the film goes a good deal further, especially towards the end.”

This is manifestly unfair to Sr Hildegarde, who according to her former colleagues had in fact helped a number of people to become reunited with their birth mothers. Furthermore The Guardian notes that, according to the original book: “‘The nuns were lovely’ writes the real Sixsmith, after visiting Roscrea with Philomena. He describes the mother superior as ‘a friendly, educated woman…who had devoted her life to the care of disadvantaged and disabled people’. This doesn’t come across at all in the film.” 

I understand that Sr Hildegarde was involved in my own adoption, I greatly regret that I never had the opportunity to thank her in person for the gift of two wonderful parents and a loving extended family.

Happy childhoods make for poor drama but great memories, and I am very grateful to Sr Hildegarde my own great memories of a very happy childhood.

I sincerely hope that those for whom adoption has been a painful process are able to reconnect with their birth mothers, find some peace and a happy ending for their own stories.

Yours etc.,

Seamus Mulconry,


Co. Wicklow.