Star Rating:


Actors: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan

Genre(s): Drama

Running time: 98 minutes

Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) was on top of the world, a formerly well-respected journalist until a government scandal knocks him off his perch. While trying to figure out what he's going to do next, a serendipitous series of events puts him in contact with Philomena Lee (Judi Dench), who drops one heck of a story right into his lap. Almost fifty years earlier, this young pregnant girl was dropped into a Magdalene-esque home. Not long after she gave birth to her son, he was taken from her and sold into adoption. Can they now, after all of this time, with so much missing or destroyed evidence of where he is or who he might be now, finally be reunited? And will her long lost son even want to meet her?

Essentially this a movie about shame, be it Philomena's perceived sin of getting pregnant while so young, or Sixsmith's shame of no longer having the social standing he once did, or the Irish Church's shame of previous actions, and so on.. So it could have been very easy to make this a straight-ahead tear-duct destroyer - and while there are certainly a handful of scenes that will have you wiping away a stray tear or five - the fact that the movie is handled with a deftly comedic hand is testament to both the writing (the screenplay was co-written by Coogan) and the performances.

Coogan does good work with a bitter, sarcastic, self-involved but ultimately very endearing man who's forced into a human interest story, when he's has very little interest in his fellow humans. He also gets some fantastic chemistry with Dench, who should see some award-talk for her loving, apologetic but clearly emotional traumatised 'little old Irish lady'.

It can sometimes become a little over-wrought; trying too obviously to get an emotional reaction, when it's light touch was so winning elsewhere. There are also moments when it feels like Philomena's naivety is too often the butt of jokes for the movie, too easy a target for what can sometimes feel like mean-spirited humour.

These minor faults aside, this is still an important story being told by two great actors at the top of their game, especially for Irish audiences.