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Judi Dench
Steve Coogan
Sean Mahon
Sophie Kennedy Clark.
Stephen Frears.
Steve Coogan
Jeff Pope.
Running Time
98 minutes

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After losing his job as a spin doctor, Martin Sixsmith (Coogan) decides to return to journalism. His subject is Philomena Lee (Judi Dench), an Irishwoman who, as a teenager, had a child that she gave up. Together, they set out to find him.

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The first half of Stephen Frears’ Philomena concerns the true story of 70-something Philomena Lee (Judi Dench), who confides in her daughter that in her teens she had a baby boy out of wedlock. In flashback we see Lee, disowned by her family, being sent to a Magdalene home in County Tipperary, where she endures forced labour in the laundry, seeing her child for just an hour a day. One morning the child is picked up by a couple in an expensive car, and Philomena is told to put him out of her mind. Which she tries to, until the occasion of his 50th birthday, when Philomena can contain her secret no more. Is he still alive? An alcoholic? Lost or homeless? Every mother’s worst fears flash through her mind.

Already we have enough material for a harrowing Mike Leigh/Ken Loach social-realist drama; instead, writers Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope make the rather brilliant decision to filter Philomena’s tale through a man who, at first, isn’t really interested in it at all. And the film keeps up this distance throughout; though they come to a mutual understanding, Martin’s (Coogan) life is not changed by Philomena, and neither is hers by him. It is this distance that makes the film so special, bridging contrary worlds like a fusion of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and In The Loop.

Is it funny? Emphatically yes, not simply in Coogan’s understated quips (“I’ve never been to a Harvester before,” he deadpans when meeting Philomena at her favourite restaurant) but also in Dame Judi’s dotty delivery (her fondness for Mills & Boon romance novels leads to the film’s bravura comic sequence). But is it profound?
Yes to that too. Though it will be remembered as a feelgood mismatched-buddy movie, Frears’ film contains a rich seam of anger that starts with Magdalene homes and finally takes us across the Atlantic to one of the great shames of Ronald Reagan’s administration. That it can do so and leave us smiling is why Philomena will be the dark horse of the awards season.

Nominations are assured for Frears and Dame Judi, but most importantly the film is vindication of the underrated Steve Coogan, not only for his refined performance, a masterclass in restraint, but also for his effortless, subtle script, perhaps the most subversive British blend of social comment and comedy since the heyday of Ealing Studios.

A terrific, sophisticated comedy that tackles serious issues with a lightness of touch and a spirit of steel, Philomena is the British film to beat come BAFTA time.

Reviewed by Damon Wise

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Average user rating for Philomena
Empire Star Rating

Seriously? 5 stars??

tp://]Philome nahis was the last film I had to see in the Best Picture category for the Oscars. It`s the worst of all. Although it`s not really bad it`s never really interesting. The acting is ok, though. Judi Dench shows that she`s way too good to be working with the material she`s given here. And finally I`ve seen a film where I don`t hate Steve Coogan all the time, wich is well worth mentioning. Mediocre at best. /b] ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheGodfather at 22:21, 04 March 2014 | Report This Post

Simply brilliant

This is just a fantastic film. Coogan and Dench are simply incredible. Very moving and very funny, which is no short order given the subject matter. Really could not recommend this highly enough. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by cloody at 21:47, 06 February 2014 | Report This Post

best film i've seen for months.

Managed to catch this on "2nd chance" viewing. I thought it was funner than Wolf of Wall Street, more touching than 12 Years a Slave, and featured better acted that either of them. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by tysmuse at 22:35, 23 January 2014 | Report This Post

RE: Philomena

A wonderful wonderful film. I'm not usually a fan of this type of "based on a true story" comedy-drama but this is a truly exceptional movie. Beautifully acted and wonderfully scripted, it had even an old cynic like me close to tears on a couple of occasions. And, if the reaction of the rest of the crowd in the cinema is anything to go by (can't remember the last time I heard this much laughter or heard people clap during a movie), then this will be a huge word of mouth hit. With a plaudit... More

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Posted by ChudMonkey at 10:46, 14 November 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Philomena

Saw this last night with my Mum who it is safe to say on the face of it is very much  the target market for this kind of thing. I have to say though the film was fantastic. It had so much to say about religion and cynicism and hope. I think sneakily this choice of story by Coogan was another dig at the press. His way of saying "look journalists this is the kind of thing you could be doing?". I've read reviews here and there suggesting that Judy Dench plays her role a little too close to st... More

Posted by squeezyrider at 08:11, 07 November 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Re: Philomena

L: Hood_Man It's the old review cliche, "you'll laugh, you'll cry," but here's it's true. giving away too much, this is not a happy storys however nicely told, and the friendship that develops between Martin and Philomena brings plenty of chuckles. Definitely worth going out of your way to see, this will be a favourite when the Bafta's are upon us. hat kinda does though... ... More

Posted by homersimpson_esq at 14:01, 03 November 2013 | Report This Post

Philomena based on Deadly Endings Novel by Raymond Russell

Philomena is like Deadly Endings the best selling novel, both look at the Catholic Church stealing babies. Deadly Endings by Raymond Russell has just been released in paperback and shows the pain and heartbreak of a young Spanish woman, whose baby was stolen by Catholic nuns in Madrid. Unlike The film Philomena, Deadly Endings has an in depth view of the way women have been generally overpowered by society. Definitely a five star heart-breaking story. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Best Sellers at 11:23, 03 November 2013 | Report This Post

Re: Philomena

It's the old review cliche, "you'll laugh, you'll cry," but here's it's true. Without giving away too much, this is not a happy story. It is however nicely told, and the friendship that develops between Martin and Philomena brings plenty of chuckles. Definitely worth going out of your way to see, this will be a favourite when the Bafta's are upon us. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Hood_Man at 06:04, 02 November 2013 | Report This Post

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