Metascore
76

Generally favorable reviews - based on 41 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 37 out of 41
  2. Negative: 1 out of 41
  1. Reviewed by: Rex Reed
    Nov 19, 2013
    100
    It’s profoundly moving and thoroughly mind provoking, but despite the poignant subject matter, I promise you will not leave Philomena depressed. I’ve seen it twice and felt exhilarated, informed, enriched, absorbed and optimistic both times.
  2. Reviewed by: Damon Wise
    Oct 28, 2013
    100
    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.
  3. Reviewed by: Marc Mohan
    Nov 25, 2013
    91
    Effective, fact-based melodrama that packs an unexpected emotional wallop.
  4. Reviewed by: Chris Nashawaty
    Nov 20, 2013
    91
    Dench and Coogan's chemistry is undeniably great. In the end, he manages to give her the answers she seeks and she manages to give him a heart.
  5. Reviewed by: Deborah Young
    Nov 21, 2013
    90
    Stephen Frears is in full possession of his filmmaking talent in Philomena, one of his most pulled-together dramas in years.
  6. Reviewed by: Stephen Holden
    Nov 21, 2013
    90
    Even through improbable moments and abrupt changes of pace and tone, Ms. Dench and Mr. Coogan hold the movie together.
  7. Reviewed by: Mary Corliss
    Sep 16, 2013
    90
    Getting full comic effect from its class-comedy abrasions, Philomena rises to poignancy and profundity as Dench reveals her control of a character stained by the loss of her child and troubled by her suspicion.
  8. Reviewed by: Steven Rea
    Nov 27, 2013
    88
    The Catholic Church does not come off well in Philomena, but then, what else is new? And the film isn't so much an indictment of institutional unkindness as it is a story of resilience, resolution - and human kindness.
  9. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Nov 27, 2013
    88
    Philomena is a tearjerker of rare honesty and craft.
  10. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    Nov 27, 2013
    88
    At its core, this clever, wrenching, profound story underscores the tenacity of faith in the face of unfathomable cruelty. Evil may be good, story-wise. But virtue, at its most tested and tempered, is even better.
  11. Reviewed by: Bill Zwecker
    Nov 26, 2013
    88
    Director Steven Frears deserves special mention. A lesser filmmaker could so easily have turned this project into mushy, sentimental junk. The tear-jerking moments here are heartfelt and real. It’s the kind of filmmaking we see too little of today.
  12. Reviewed by: Susan Wloszczyna
    Nov 22, 2013
    88
    Most of its pleasures come from the way it confounds expectations.
  13. Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    Nov 21, 2013
    88
    It's Dench, showing how faith and hellraising can reside in the same woman, who makes Philomena moving and memorable.
  14. 88
    Most credit goes to Coogan for the success of this odd coupling.
  15. Reviewed by: Steve Persall
    Nov 26, 2013
    83
    Philomena is simply one of those small, true stories that astonish in print and inspire good movies.
  16. Reviewed by: Oliver Lyttelton
    Sep 16, 2013
    83
    It's certainly a crowd-pleaser...and something close to a triumph, if not an unqualified one.
  17. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Nov 26, 2013
    80
    Philomena could have been a sappy movie, but it’s not. Instead, with such assured performances, it’s proof that sometimes a laugh makes swallowing a big dose of outrage a little easier.
  18. Reviewed by: Anthony Lane
    Nov 22, 2013
    80
    What could be a plain tale -- and is in danger of becoming a sappy one -- grows surprisingly inward and dense. [25 Nov. 2013, p.135]
  19. 80
    The movie is overcalculating and occasionally coarse, but it has a gentle spirit. We should count its existence as a blessing.
  20. Reviewed by: Bob Mondello
    Nov 22, 2013
    80
    Director Stephen Frears, working from a book by the real Martin Sixsmith, isn't about to let the Irish church off the hook for a monstrous (and well-documented) chapter in its history. In flashbacks, he pictures the young Philomena as a sort of proto-Katniss, doing battle with a tyranny of nuns.
  21. Reviewed by: Joshua Rothkopf
    Nov 19, 2013
    80
    A trip to America bears its share of exasperated hotel-room humor, but watch both actors lean into characters seeking redemption; their clash is invigorating, with a mature payoff that has two minds meeting and getting further along. It’s a tonic to all the Oscar-season showboating: Call it Best Duo.
  22. Reviewed by: Inkoo Kang
    Nov 19, 2013
    80
    The grande dame's performance, alternately goofy and grave, is an absolute tour de force.
  23. Reviewed by: Philip Kemp
    Nov 3, 2013
    80
    Odd-couple chemistry from Dench and Coogan, a smart script and honed direction make this real-life story highly compelling. Blending comedy and tragedy, it secretes a potent sting.
  24. Reviewed by: Dave Calhoun
    Sep 16, 2013
    80
    It's a terrifically moving film that has a fitting earthbound feel to it.
  25. Reviewed by: Robbie Collin
    Sep 16, 2013
    80
    This is a heartbreaking story – how could it not be? But Frears’ film breaks your heart and then repairs it.
  26. Reviewed by: Xan Brooks
    Sep 16, 2013
    80
    Its main focus is the sparky, shifting relationship between its two protagonists and its trump card the startling chemistry between its two main stars.
  27. Reviewed by: William Goss
    Nov 25, 2013
    78
    Philomena honors its namesake by valuing potent understatement over potential hysterics.
  28. Reviewed by: James Berardinelli
    Nov 27, 2013
    75
    It's simple and well-told, although nothing about it is breathtakingly original.
  29. Reviewed by: Mick LaSalle
    Nov 26, 2013
    75
    Philomena is a wiser movie than it seems, with much to say about justice and forgiveness and the healing of wounds over time. Actually, it says next to nothing about any of those things, just implies its messages with a light hand.
  30. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Nov 22, 2013
    75
    At times the filmmakers seem to be taking potshots at Philomena for her placidity; other times Martin is made to seem crass and unfeeling – insufficiently spiritual. Life lessons are imparted, although the players never budge very much from their initial attitudes.
  31. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Nov 21, 2013
    75
    Compelling, poignant and gently funny.
  32. Reviewed by: Ignatiy Vishnevetsky
    Nov 20, 2013
    75
    Still, that doesn’t detract too much from what Philomena manages to accomplish: a sober consideration of how ideals relate to institutions — whether they’re religions or political parties — anchored by two well-rounded, funny lead performances.
  33. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    Nov 22, 2013
    70
    Philomena turns out to be a subtly told tale of tragedy and redemption, with much of the sentimental payoff you’re expecting but several intriguing plot twists along the way.
  34. Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    Nov 21, 2013
    70
    Dench is not the only reason to see this unapologetic crowd-pleaser, but she is the best one.
  35. Reviewed by: Keith Phipps
    Nov 21, 2013
    70
    What makes it effective isn’t the facts of the case, so much as the way Philomena lets viewers spend time with its characters and get to know exactly who’s getting hurt.
  36. Reviewed by: Justin Chang
    Sep 16, 2013
    70
    It’s an undeniable whopper of a yarn and, coming after a string of middling efforts from Frears, easily the director’s most compulsively watchable picture since “The Queen."
  37. Reviewed by: Marjorie Baumgarten
    Nov 27, 2013
    67
    For the viewer, however, solving this mystery is not nearly as engrossing as watching the actors’ pas de deux.
  38. Reviewed by: Elizabeth Weitzman
    Nov 21, 2013
    60
    The movie wouldn’t stand for much of anything without such an effective team to represent the equivocating.
  39. Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    Nov 21, 2013
    50
    Mr. Coogan, lavishly talented as a comic, and a comic actor, is fairly monotonous in the mostly serious role he wrote for himself. That leaves Ms. Dench to carry the picture, which she does, up to a point, with her usual delicacy and grace.
  40. Reviewed by: Jesse Cataldo
    Nov 15, 2013
    50
    A human-interest story that claims spite for human-interest stories, the film has some pretty divisive issues at its core that leave it torn between contrasting approaches.
  41. Reviewed by: Kyle Smith
    Nov 21, 2013
    25
    With Philomena, British producer-writer-star Steve Coogan and director Stephen Frears hit double blackjack, finding a true-life tale that would enable them to simultaneously attack Catholics and Republicans. There’s no other purpose to the movie, so if 90 minutes of organized hate brings you joy, go and buy your ticket now.
User Score
8.0

Generally favorable reviews- based on 162 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 41 out of 45
  2. Negative: 0 out of 45
  1. Nov 22, 2013
    10
    Whilst '12 Years a Slave' and 'The Butler' are banging the drum for the civil rights movement in America, another less talked about atrocity that took place in Ireland is broached in Philomena, namely the dreadful practise of catholic nuns selling the children of young unwed mothers. These 'fallen women' were forced into convents which were run like work houses in order for them 'to cleanse their sins'. Many were in their early teens and most never saw their children again after adoption. This film concerns the search by one such mother,Philomena, who along with a journalist sets out to find the son she hasn't seen in nearly 50 years.
    Judi Dench plays the title character and her performance is a class act. She gives an effortlessly briliiant and believable portrayal of this tortured, but hopeful woman. She is an actress to whom her art just seems to come naturally and she is again at the top of her game. Steve Coogan is also very good as the journalist and he can take another bow for co-authoring the richly textured screenplay. Whilst the writing tackles serious issues it still manages to tap into some wonderful humour in the midst of this desperately sad situation. The film, though, is certainly never mawkish, but it is at times genuinely affecting. In fact, the only thing that comes out bad here is the light shining on the Catholic Church.
    Full Review »
  2. Mar 22, 2014
    9
    Philonema is a wonderful story . but i am sad that her son died . it was kinda heartbreaking as well . but it is the most saddest movies i have ever seen . philonema is a hero and i hope she will save children .
    Grade A
    grade for philonema A+
    Full Review »
  3. Jan 8, 2014
    10
    This exceptional film is lifted from excellence to perfection by the note perfect work of Judi Dench and Steve Coogan. It is as much about forgiveness as it is about cruelty, but it is not sentimental. The real Philomena is apparently a woman who has humor and enthusiasm and refuses to feel sorry for herself. These qualities, perfectly caught by Dench, makes the movie buoyant. Full Review »