Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) is a woman who’s been keeping a secret for about 50 years. When she was younger she had a child out of wedlock, something that was looked down upon by her catholic community. She was forced by the church to put up her son for adoption and was never able to see him again. Years later Philomena is introduced to political journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) who is not too eager to find out what happened to Philomena’s son. Despite his reluctance, Sixsmith agrees to help Philomena because he needs to find a job.
This movie was packed full of charm and enough tragedy to make it a solid movie. Philomena never shows bitterness or resentment toward the nuns that mistreated her and I think that this triumph over evil is something that makes the movie unique. All too often we see the tale of the wronged punishing the person that wronged them but Philomena chooses to forgive. The fact that this movie didn’t tell the woman’s life story is a thing that I appreciated. This film stuck to the point and mainly stayed in the present to show us Phil’s reactions as she discovered more and more about her lost son. Of course I don’t think this was one of the most moving stories I’ve seen but it truly is a memorable one due to how endearing Philomena is.
Judi Dench’s performance as the lovable Philomena combined with Coogan’s portrayal of the relunctant (and weary) Sixsmith made them one of the most likeable onscreen duos in recent years. Strangely enough, I was surprised to find that this film was a lot funnier than I initially thought it would be. This is, I think, has to do with the excellent chemistry between Dench and Coogan. Of course, the audience would not have felt as bad for Philomena if it weren’t for Sophie Kennedy Clark who did a superb job as a younger version of Phil. All of this excellent acting was of course complemented by a superb soundtrack from Alexandre Desplat.
The only thing that really bothered me about this movie was that there was a couple times were product placement was blatantly obvious. To the credit of the director, Stephen Frears, or whoever was responsible, this actually tied into the story pretty well. Other than that there wasn’t any glaring mistakes or plot holes that would ruin this movie for anyone.
Philomena is an extremely enjoyable movie. Judi Dench’s performance will instantly draw you in while the sporadic comedy and story development will keep you interested. Having said this, the comedy in this movie isn’t completely overwhelming because this is still a story of discovery, not only for Philomena but also for Sixsmith.
TL;DR: Great movie with a great performance by both Judi Dench and Steve Coogan.
Rockit Raccoon Rating: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%