Starring: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Anna Maxwell-Martin
Director: Stephen Frears
Judi Dench is on sparkling form as the titular Irishwoman whose child was snatched away by nuns at a time when giving birth out of wedlock was treated as a criminal act. Decades later, journalist Martin Sixsmith represents her only hope of finding her son (the film is based on his 2009 book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee).
Steve Coogan is suitably irascible as the former BBC correspondent, just publicly fired from his second career as a Labour government adviser, initially turning his nose up at the idea of pursuing a “human interest story”. But Philomena, brimming with religious faith and optimism, is such a force of nature that he can’t help but be swayed.
Director Stephen Frears exploits the odd-couple dynamic to great effect, not only generating wonderful comic moments but also bringing home the tragedy of Philomena’s life. He might have given their journey to America a little more cinematic sweep, but it’s no less inspiring for that. You’ll laugh and you’ll cry, sometimes both at the same time.
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