Philomena: A powerful story and one of the year's best

Gary Wolcott, atomictown.comNovember 27, 2013 

Film Review Philomena

This image released by The Weinstein Company shows Judi Dench, left, and Steve Coogan in a scene from "Philomena." (AP Photo/The Weinstein Company, Alex Bailey)

ALEX BAILEY — AP

The real-life, unmarried Philomena Lee gave birth to a son in the 1950s. The two lived in a convent in Ireland. The nuns took in pregnant, unwed mothers. Considering their indiscretions a major-league sin, the nuns forced the women into what today would be considered slave labor. Adding to the cruelty, they were allowed to be with their children for one hour a day.

Eventually, the nuns sold their children.

Philomena is based on a book written by former BBC journalist and writer Martin Sixsmith on her 50-year search to find her son. Judi Dench is Philomena, and actor/writer Steve Coogan -- who adapted Sixsmith's book for the screen -- is Sixsmith.

The always superb Dench is terrific as the under-educated, simple and very forgiving Philomena. Coogan -- best known for bit comedy parts and supporting roles in semi-dramatic flicks -- dials it in and gives a terrific and understated performance.

Few storytellers are better than director Stephen Frears (The Queen). He nails this one. It is a powerful, riveting and many times uncomfortable story of a mother's love, loyalty and struggle. It's one of the year's best.

Director: Stephen Frears

Stars: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Mare Winningham

Mr. Movie rating: 4 1/2 stars

Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It's playing at the Carmike 12.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.

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