Generally favorable reviews - based on 41 Critics What's this?

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Generally favorable reviews- based on 162 Ratings

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  • Starring: ,
  • Summary: A world-weary political journalist picks up the story of a woman's search for her son, who was taken away from her decades ago after she became pregnant and was forced to live in a convent.
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 37 out of 41
  2. Negative: 1 out of 41
  1. Reviewed by: Rex Reed
    Nov 19, 2013
    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: Stephen Holden
    Nov 21, 2013
    Even through improbable moments and abrupt changes of pace and tone, Ms. Dench and Mr. Coogan hold the movie together.
  3. Reviewed by: Bill Zwecker
    Nov 26, 2013
    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.
  4. Reviewed by: Xan Brooks
    Sep 16, 2013
    Its main focus is the sparky, shifting relationship between its two protagonists and its trump card the startling chemistry between its two main stars.
  5. Reviewed by: Joshua Rothkopf
    Nov 19, 2013
    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.
  6. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Nov 21, 2013
    Compelling, poignant and gently funny.
  7. Reviewed by: Kyle Smith
    Nov 21, 2013
    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.

See all 41 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 41 out of 45
  2. Negative: 0 out of 45
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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...
  4. 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
  5. Dec 17, 2013
    Went to see American Hustle which was sold out and saw this instead. Most of our opinions about films are measured by our expectations, and since i had none entering this film, i was very pleasantly surprised by the richness of the writing and character development and the depth of the story. if you are Irish, or Roman catholic, or both, this film will resonate with you. The male v female roles are well worn but well played here, and the Judy Dench character stays true to form, and the male character, so initially smug and self-assured, comes to learn something from the "less intelligent, religious, faith-based" character that reminded me of the great comedies of the 40's and 50's (e.g., Hepburn & Tracey; Grant & Hepburn, etc) except here there is no romance, just life and character. This is a very good couples film for mature audiences. Expand
  6. 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. Expand
  7. 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

See all 45 User Reviews


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