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.