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Generally favorable reviews- based on 161 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 4 out of 161

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  1. Sep 20, 2014
    Philomena is a triumph in storytelling and laudable film warranting all nominations garnered this year.

    An elderly Irishwoman, Philomena, is taken on a journey on a search to find the lost son she was forced to give up for adoption as a teen by a journalist on the decline in search of a story. The injustice of lost years, guilt, sin, and manipulation angers viewers as they follow
    Philomena and Martin along the journey.

    Judi Dench proves again she is worthy of the Academy Award for best actress. She is truly deserving of a win though I do not believe she will be victorious over the more blaring and conspicuous performances from the other actresses nominated this year. She is sweet as the titled Philomena with a constant undercurrent of sadness with a nuanced portrayal of a slight nature arguably caused by the emotional turmoil of experiencing her son being purloined as a teen.

    I am equally glad they recognized and nominated Alexandre Desplat for his original score for the film. It is understated and complementary; adding to the tone of the scenes instead of doing what most music does in films – forcing emotion that isn’t created organically.

    All in all, it is a compelling and attention keeping story with a clear direction and purpose. Philomena is a triumph in storytelling and laudable film warranting all nominations garnered this year.
  2. 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
  3. Sep 2, 2014
    Not your average old-lady flick. One of the most passionate stories of the year--proven vividly by another top notch Judi Dench performance and a curious portrayal from Steve Coogan, who also penned the screenplay.
  4. Aug 20, 2014
    It's beautiful..!!
    In the starting half hour i was thinking that this movie might come out as a old Bollywood kind of stuff but after that it just started moving up and up and up and ended with the infinite beauty..!!
    It's really a very beautiful movie and captured different emotions in a very wonderful way.. ..!!
  5. Jul 25, 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.
  6. 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
  7. Jun 30, 2014
    While the real story behind it was incredibly interesting and sad, The way it was portrayed as a comedy and not a serious drama (as it should have been) made things rather distasteful. Certainly not a bad film but features far too many needless jokes for the serious and real subject it's based on.
  8. 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
  9. May 30, 2014
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Philomena is a disturbing film the right way. Judi Dench is perfect. Take position is difficult. Forgiveness, anger, sadness, joy. We don't know what to choose and this is what makes this film so special. Expand
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Apr 20, 2014
    Film's religious motifs far outweighed Philomena's subdued, egalitarian character; which was embodied in the last 10 minutes.
  15. 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.

  16. 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.
  17. 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+
  18. Mar 13, 2014
    A good movie based on true events which I prefer. Good acting and scenery from Ireland. Unfortunately it re-tells cruel events taking place in convents that cause hardships for good remorseful people. Tragic but reality.
  19. 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.
  20. 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
  21. Mar 3, 2014
    I don't really understand some of the reviews I'm reading about this. As far as I'm concerned, the balance between its humour and emotion was pitched almost perfectly. It's certainly thought-provoking if anything. Dench is superb and I hope she gets a few nods for this performance. A few niggles as with any film, mostly its pacing, but overall, a very pleasant watch.
  22. 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.
  23. Feb 23, 2014
    A brilliant performance by Judi Dench as is usual for her and a great but tragic story. A movie that will leave you feeling light hearted. A wonderful experience for anyone who just wants to watch a movie with a touching story and leave the movie feeling happy.
  24. Feb 22, 2014
    For a subject as powerful as what the film Philomena tackles, the result stirs little emotion. And even though I cannot fathom why it made the list of the best 9 films this year according the US film academy, it is still good enough to be the type of film to watch on TV on a leisurely Sunday afternoon whilst digesting the roast I had for lunch.
  25. 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
  26. 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
  27. Jan 20, 2014
    A lackluster film that had no energy or drive. I thought I was watching something that went straight to cable not an Oscar nominated film. No body seemed to have their heart in this one. Dench looked liked she was sleep walking through the film and for some instinctive reason I knew her son would turn out to be one of two things. I was right. I have seen a lot of films about the Catholic Church and the evil it has done in Ireland that are so much better that again, I kept wondering why this film was so lame. Of course, I keep wondering why anyone remains in the Catholic Church. Expand
  28. Lyn
    Jan 19, 2014
    Judi Dench is excellent as always. Can't recall a recent film of hers in which she played a more huggable character (and yet, with a little edge). My main problem with the film was that it felt very much like a Lifetime movie ... you know, with one of the Golden Girls playing the older Irish lady and some sitcom guy playing the jaded ex-journalist. I understand that the anti-Catholic vitriol was very much amped up for the film as well, which bothers me (although I'm not Catholic). A good one to rent later and enjoy Dench's performance. Expand
  29. Jan 17, 2014
    This movie is fantastic, Judi Dench, and Steve Coogan are great, this movie has a perfect combination of humor, and drama, and it can make you cry. This is one of the year's best.
  30. 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.

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.