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A deeply moving film, PHILOMENA soars due to excellent performances by Judi Dench and Steve Coogan and non-sentimental direction by Stephen Frears. 

Based on the true story of Philomena Lee (Judi Dench), whose son was taken away from her at the convent where she spent her formative years, the film follows her search to track him down 50 years later. 

Now in the twilight of her life, Philomena can’t bear the secret that she has lived with for most of her life and kept from her family. It’s her private shame and she’s been lead to believe that having the child out of wedlock was a sin and she deserved this punishment. 

Investigative reporter Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), finds Philomena’s story compelling enough to put aside a passion project and break his rule of never doing a human interest piece. 

A cross country and across the world journey reveals more secrets and a bond begins to coalesce between the unlikely pair even though their religious views widely differ. 

Due to the heavy subject matter, PHILOMENA could have very easily fallen prey to melodrama or inappropriate humor, but it is expertly handled and tonally, the film is just perfect. 

Both actors play slightly against expectations and that’s what makes the story so compelling. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be put off by the movie when I sat down to watch it, so I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I took to it and how much it has stuck with me after the credits rolled. 

If you are in the mood for a great drama, I highly recommend PHILOMENA. Just have a tissue handy, as there’s some real emotional resonance going on and some twists that you might not be expecting.

APRIL 26, 2014