Director: Stephen Frears
Writers: Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope
Starring: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Based on the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, “Philomena” follows the story of disgraced political official turned journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) who picks up a story about a woman who gave birth to child out of wedlock fifty years prior and has been looking for him ever since. Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) was forced to give her child up to and live in a convent, and the convent adopted her son out without telling her. Stonewalling her every time she tries to find out what happened to her son, Sixsmith and Lee learn that he was adopted by an American family and they travel to the U.S. in search of her lost child.
This story based on true events has a lot of twist and turns, including when Sixsmith finds out that he actually met her son at one point, giving him a personal stake in her story. It was quite interesting to see where the story ultimately wound up, and it takes some very unexpected turns, winding up where you probably wouldn’t guess if you don’t know the story.
The performances are outstanding, and Judi Dench deserves the Oscar nod for playing a precocious and funny but still forgiving Philomena. Steve Coogan is more dour in the film, but plays off Dench’s Philomena very well with a wry humor. Ultimately, this is a buddy movie where one doesn’t work without the other. They balance each other perfectly.
It’s a story that is concerning and at times infuriating, although told with a light and forgiving humor that strangely works. Dench and Coogan make a great team, and this film is worth your while, Don’t expect anything truly groundbreaking, but it’s a well-made and good movie that is quite enjoyable.
“Philomena” earns 4 out of 5 stars.