Movies Reviews by Michael Phillips
Dench is not the only reason to see this unapologetic crowd-pleaser, but she is the best one.
As directed by the veteran
Though it ends up the least involving part of the film, "Philomena" does come by its comedy honestly.
But as "Philomena" gets deeper into its involving plot, it seems to gain confidence in the strength of its narrative and accepts the fact that telling a dramatic story is job one.
A good part of the credit goes to Dench's performance as Philomena Lee -- Phil for short, a retired nurse with quite a story to tell.
It is the genius of the actress's work that by bringing an instinctive dignity to her characterization, she creates someone who is simultaneously average and extraordinary.
It was co-writer Coogan who discovered the film's narrative lurking behind an incendiary headline in the Manchester Guardian: "The Catholic Church Sold My Child." That led him to a nonfiction book by
"Philomena" begins with Sixsmith's predicament: Formerly a
Desperate for something to do, he is approached by Philomena's daughter, Jane (
Obviously Sixsmith has a change of heart and agrees to investigate Philomena's story. It is one of the film's drawbacks, however, that this film is as much about the getting of wisdom for him as it is about the getting of information for Phil.
That's a problem because this humanizing of a cynical, emotionally disconnected twit into someone who recognizes the wisdom in a person of the lower classes is as much of a cliche as it sounds. "Philomena" does get some mileage out of specifically British class references -- there are jokes about
The reason for that, aside from Dench's acting, is the strength of her story.
Finding herself pregnant and out of wedlock as an Irish teenager in 1952, Philomena is handed over to the nuns at the Sacred Heart Convent in Roscrea.
These nuns, especially the hard-core Sister Hildegarde (played young by
That story is the heart of "Philomena" and, fortunately, it is a truly surprising one. "Philomena's" setup does feel conventional, but Dench makes the resolution worth waiting for.
"Philomena" Movie Trailer
Review: 3 Stars
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for some strong language, thematic elements and sexual references).
Running time: 1:37.
"Philomena" is a drama about a mother and her son. Judi Dench stars in the film. It is about a young woman that gave her son up for adoption when she had him out of wedlock. Years later after having a family, the now older woman looks for her son with the help of a reporter. What will she find?
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'Philomena' Movie Review - Stars Judi Dench & Steve Coogan
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