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Generally favorable reviews- based on 162 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 4 out of 162

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  1. Nov 22, 2013
    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.
  2. Dec 19, 2013
    “Philomena” is the fillm directed by Stephen Frears based on the book “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee” written by Martin Sixsmith, Jeff Pope and Steve Coogan. Mr. Coogan also stars in the film with Dame Judi Dench. This is a movie I did not see when it first came into distribution since I had the misguided impression that it would be depressing and without spirit. Quite the contrary, this is a detective story, a story of faith and a story of perseverance as a mother spends most of her life trying to find the child taken from her and her forced servitude at the “mercy” of the nuns in the convent in which her child was born. Enough cannot be said about the performances of Mr. Coogan and of Ms. Dench as they dominate and capture this film and its true story. I give this film a 9 rating and suggest that it not be missed or the reader will risk missing a truly wonderful film. Expand
  3. Jan 7, 2014
    Judy Dench and Steve Coogan play off each other well in this under the radar film. The catholic church once again does not look good in a film, although the atrocities took place 60 years ago in 1950s Ireland. Apparently nuns would take young parent-less women into their convent who had babies out of wedlock and eventually sell their babies to wealthy Americans (true story believe it or not). The story is about one mother who decided to search for her son that was taken away from her 50 years earlier. She accepts the help of an author who hears about the story from the woman's daughter. They have an adventure together, going to America to find the son. There is a surprising amount of humor in addition to the heartbreak. Very well acted and written and easily one of the best films of the year. Expand
  4. Jan 8, 2014
    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.
  5. Dec 1, 2013
    Philomena is a heart wrenching story based on truth and the brilliant acting throughout makes it a compelling watch. Judi Dench and Steve Coogan both give incredible performances as do all the characters, from the young Philomena (Sophie Kennedy Clark) to her son Anthony/Michael (the handsome Sean Mahon). If there is one movie you see this Christmas that does a great job at telling an extraordinary story, it's Philomena. Expand
  6. Mar 22, 2014
    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+
  7. Mar 9, 2014
    'Philomena' is a wonderful film. I am very rarely moved to tears by a film, but this one broke my heart. What an amazing story! Judi Dench is phenomenal as usual.
  8. May 9, 2014
    Stephen Frears’ most recent project PHILOMENA is nominated for four Oscars including BEST PICTURE and BEST LEADING ACTRESS for Dame Judi Dench (her 7th nomination, only if she could have been active on big screen from the outset of her career, she would give Meryl Streep a good run for her money of her 18 acting nominations record, now the task falls upon her fellow thespians Kate Winslet or Cate Blanchett, both garner 6 so far).

    read rest of the review on my blog, google cinema omnivore.
  9. Apr 15, 2014
    The movie was adapted from a book called 'The Lost Child of Philomena Lee' which was based on the true story of an Irish woman. The movie chronicles the story of Philomena's quest in search of her long lost son which travels all the way across the ocean to different countries. And again this incredible story ended in the hands of a great director. The director Stephen Fears just put some magic spell on the story and it became a soulful movie with the fine support from his cast and crew.

    The movie was just like I wanted. From each level of the story, it surprised with the beautiful turning points. It was a single movie, but I felt I saw part by part, chapter after another with detailed information. 'Philomena' is phenomenal movie of the year. The depth of emotions can be felt through our heart, very touching story. An inspiring movie for other mothers who are still looking for their lost children. One should never lose his 'hope', it can be used as a powerful weapon to discover what had you lost.

    I had seen plenty of nature documentaries about a mother and love towards her kids. It might be a polar bear from Arctic or a penguin from Antarctic they all fight for their little ones and ready to give her own life when it matters. In this movie Philomena's (Judi Dench) child was taken away from her under some tough circumstances. She kept it secret in her sealed lip but never stopped to look for him. She waited for 50 year-long, finally with the help of a former BBC journalist, Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), she succeeds to follow the tracks. Whether the mother and son unite or not is the movie's end.

    As far I know the best ever performance by Steve Coogan. This movie definitely will boost his confidence for his future project and also will help his professional graph go upwards. Never doubted the James Bond lady (M), Judi Dench as Philomena. Her experience came to very useful to shape up this movie well. Never could have been this much exciting the movie without these two along with the director. Hope they all join hands together for another project in the near future.

  10. Apr 20, 2014
    Film's religious motifs far outweighed Philomena's subdued, egalitarian character; which was embodied in the last 10 minutes.
  11. Apr 13, 2014
    A film like Philomena comes along all too infrequently. That wonderful hybrid of quality drama, subtle, well-balanced acting and a sprinkling of welcome humor. Not to mention it all hung together around a meaningful and interesting subject matter.
    Based on the true story of Philomena Lee, an elderly Irish woman who became pregnant as a teenager and had her child taken away from her by the
    Catholic Church and sold for adoption it truly is not just a fine piece of work from a idiosyncratic director but an example to all about how to make dramatic cinema. Its also a a high watermark in terms of its tear jerkiness. very seldom do you see a sentimental film full of appropriate humor and a lack of tacked on manipulated mawkishness. Take note War Horse, Les Mis, The Impossible and company.
    I have never been a huge fan of Dench but here she gives the performance of a lifetime(wrinkles have never looked so engaging) backed up wonderfully by Coogan who is mildly eccentric and tempered but deeply moved all at the same time. My only concern would be the glaring convenience that pops up half way through but Frears keeps things so tightly wound that you feel completely tolerant of it straight away.
    The movie has received some rare bashings by some critics who argue its intentions regarding its take on the Catholic religion. I say what goes around comes around and this deserves to be seen by everyone with a keen interest in, well, human interest stories.
  12. Sep 14, 2014
    Philomena is a brilliant movie! It could have been depressing, sad, tragic or heavy handed. Instead, it is filled with wry humor, vividly portrayed characters, and a story that exposes deep social problems with some compassion and a sense of optimism. Judi Dench and Steve Coogan gave wonderful performances, and even the minor characters were totally believable, complex human beings. If you missed seeing this, rent it!! Expand
  13. Dec 8, 2013
    As for the supporting cast members in Philomena, they’re very much side dressing to Coogan and Dench’s performances as the main course. Nevertheless, people like Michelle Fairley (Game of Thrones), Barbara Jefford (The Ninth Gate) and Peter Hermann (Our Idiot Brother) still manage to get a respectable amount of emotional mileage out of their few scenes. Ultimately, though, Dench and Coogan are the beating heart of Frears’ cinematic social/political commentary, as their work together is enough to accommodate many of the flaws in storytelling making Philomena a heart-churning and enjoyable moviegoing experience, as a whole. Expand
  14. Apr 23, 2014
    Excellent move serving as a showcase for the marvelous talents of Judi Dench. It is difficult to dislike a Judi Dench movie, especially now that she has become the very mold for a great actress.
  15. Dec 1, 2013
    This is one of the most sobering, funny and adult movies we've seen in many a season. As parents of a young child ourselves, my wife and I (both writers) were moved by the story of the out of work London political journalist who becomes intrigued by the story of an aging Irish mother looking for her long-lost child...given up for adoption? sold to the highest bidder? It's all based on a true story, which makes the conclusion that much more heart-rending. The story reminded me of a parallel reality in which for decades, Israeli doctors and hospitals acquired babies and young children by the most nefarious means to provide to wealthy American Jewish families who couldn't produce children of their own. While this film is often dark, there is plenty of levity as well, and we both left the theatre thought-provoked, entertained and satisfied at an hour and a half well-spent. Indeed, when I got home I wanted to Tweet Steve Coogan, whom I had only known as a comedic actor, to congratulate him on his choice of role and his work as the film's producer (turns out while he has an account, Coogan is not yet active). Kudos are due to director Stephen Frears, who has long been in the small coterie of my favorite indie filmmakers, especially since his films "The Hit," "My Beautiful Laundrette" and "Sammy and Rosie Get Laid." Expand
  16. Mar 5, 2014
    Easily one of the best. "Philomena" is a wave of emotions directly into the viewer's heart, having one of the best performances I have ever seen and one of the most effecting, touching stories ever made. Although I would like if more of Philomena's life was discussed, although this aspect does not harm any of the aspects of the film. Wonderful cinematography, lovable actors and touching characters. Philomena is slightly one of the greatest of all time. Expand
  17. Feb 27, 2014
    Philomena, a darker movie than what I expected, exceeded my expectations. What seemed like a light and fluffy comedy-drama from my perception of it turned out to be dramatic, deep, engaging story. The bursts of comedy mixed with the great chemistry between the two leads overpowers the few moments of slight implausibility in the movie.
  18. May 28, 2014
    This is one of my personal favorite movies of 2013. A sweet story with an amazing performance by Dench and great script, that may get mad some people because is honest on what the religious hypocrisy is all about, maybe it needs more honesty (yes, more) and more Dench, still I love the movie. A good movie with a great lesson to all the hypocrites out there.
  19. Jan 2, 2014
    After a series of unfortunate missteps ("Lay The Favorite", "Chéri", "Tamara Drewe",...) it's good to see Stephen Frears back in shape....PHILOMENA is by far his strongest film since 2006 "The Queen", furthermore it re-unites him with his "Mrs Henderson Presents" star Judi Dench, she co-stars here with British comedian Steve Coogan in a more seldom straight dramatic role (Coogan is also credited as co-writer as well as one of the producers of the film). It's based on a similarly-themed Peter Mullan directed film which won the Golden Lion in Venice back in 2002 "The Magdalene Sisters", but the tone here is much lighter,...basically Coogan and co-writer Jeff Pope adapted the 2003 memoir from real-life journalist Martin Sixsmith (played by Coogan himself in the film) in which he tells how he helped an elderly Irish woman, Philomena Lee (Judi Dench), track down the son she was forced to give up 50 years earlier when sent to a Catholic convent as a pregnant teenager...
    PHILOMENA is a touching comedy-drama with just the right mix of laughter and tears...aided by an inspired odd-couple of terrific actors in Dame Judi and Steve Coogan,... and with a push from warm reviews and eventual nominations, it may well have a serious shot at a nice run well beyond the British Isles in various upscale markets around the world...
  20. Jan 31, 2014
    such a sublime film in which Stephen Frears has found the perfect tone to narrate with his customary subtlety the story of an encounter and of a double quest. That of a mother but also that of a journalist whose pseudo certainties are shattered, which, paradoxically enough, makes him stronger by giving him (back) the capacity to be moved by another human being. Judi Dench depicts in a breathtaking way all the complexity and the density of the emotions and thoughts of this luminous Philomena. She achieves this with the grace and the delicacy which are part and parcel of her acting skills and with this extraordinary capacity she possesses to embody the beauty, the frailty and the strength of the human soul. Expand
  21. Feb 10, 2014
    This is an excellent movie, well constructed and interesting. It's not action-packed but it's not meant to be. Judy Dench is, as usual, terrific and Steve Coogan is a perfect foil for her. Their synergy on screen is mesmerizing. Never for one second did I think "that's Judy Dench pretending to be Irish", her performance was impeccable.If you're looking for fast-paced action with lots of twists and turns, this is not the movie for you, but if you want a heartfelt, warm, human story, then don't miss this. Expand
  22. Nov 23, 2014
    Philomena es una película que tiene una excelente y adecuada banda sonora para la película, además de su bien hecha historia y su interesante trama.
  23. May 2, 2014
    It's the singular blend of comedy and emotion in Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope's screenplay that makes Philomena an entertaining and heartfelt story. And Dench, remarkable as always, really carries the film to the finish line making it one of the "must-see" films of 2013.
  24. Jun 3, 2014
    Journey into the incredible story of Philomena Lee in this heartwarming and truly remarkable film. In my opinion, this is by far one of the best film nominated for an Oscar during the 86th Academy Awards. The movie centers on an ex-BBC political journalist, who was recently unemployed and plans to move ahead, and finds the story of Philomena Lee, who is searching for her long lost son, who had been taken from her decades ago, when she became pregnant and was forced into a convent. Together they uncover clues about her son. Judi Dench, as Philomena and Steve Coogan, as Sixsmith the political journalist truly makes the perfect duo for this film, both presenting their characters in a form which truly blew the audience's mind away. The director, Stephen Frears has created another beautiful and thought provoking film. Expand
  25. Jun 30, 2014
    Though it is not a perfectly made movie, Judi Dench is scintillatingly brilliant, and she and Steve Coogan are perfect foils for each other. I went into it expecting a moving, heart-warming drama - which it is - but was completely surprised by how very funny it is as well. The story is powerful, the scenery is beautiful, the acting is moving, and the pacing clips right along. Don't hesitate to rent this little gem. Expand

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: Steven Rea
    Nov 27, 2013
    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.
  2. Reviewed by: Marjorie Baumgarten
    Nov 27, 2013
    For the viewer, however, solving this mystery is not nearly as engrossing as watching the actors’ pas de deux.
  3. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Nov 27, 2013
    Philomena is a tearjerker of rare honesty and craft.