Philomena (12A)

Film

Drama

Philomena

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5
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Time Out says

Posted: Sat Aug 31 2013

Odd couples echo throughout 'Philomena', a film directed by British veteran Stephen Frears ('The Queen') and co-written by comedian Steve Coogan – who also stars opposite another much-loved old hand: Judi Dench. Coogan is Martin Sixsmith, a resolutely hard-nosed ex-BBC journalist trying to find his feet in the early 2000s after an unhappy stint in the shadows of politics. Dench is Philomena, chalk to his cheese: she's an ageing, working-class Londoner who grew up in Ireland and whose late-life admission that she had a baby taken away from her in an convent as a young woman finds her travelling to Ireland and the US with Sixsmith, who's intent on turning her life into column inches.

Sixsmith – played with a buttoned-down reserve by Coogan, only occasionally slipping into comic mugging – is slumming it by writing a 'human-interest story' on Philomena for a midmarket tabloid. Philomena – given strength, vulnerability and wit by Dench – is not sure why, or if, she wants to uncover these ghosts in her past. We see scenes of her youth in harrowing flashbacks and the story takes us to places of deep loss and pain. Yet Frears sidesteps easy melodrama in favour of a reserve tempered by mild comedy. Some of the early contrasts between Martin and Philomena are too insistent. But 'Philomena' becomes more interesting when their individual and shared responses to their discoveries and disappointments en route turn out to be more complex than we fear they may be.

It's a terrifically moving film that has a fitting earthbound feel to it as well as a barely suppressed anger at crimes inflicted on the powerless, whether by the Catholic church or an unfeeling modern news media. It also has a sharp wit which stops it being a straight tragedy. Less successful, perhaps, is the film's insistence on debating press ethics, when, in the context of such a personal story, the behaviour of the church, past and present, and Philomena and Martin's feelings towards it, are so much more relevant and important.

But, still, 'Philomena' has important things to say about the role of religion in people's lives even when it's done them great harm, or at least done them little good. It also offers a healthy dose of cheekiness to counter the gloom, and, best of all, has a well-earned ring of complicated truth to it.

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Release details

Rated:

12A

UK release:

Fri Nov 1, 2013

Duration:

98 mins

Cinemas showing Philomena

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Users say

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

4.1 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:13
  • 4 star:10
  • 3 star:3
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|54
1 person listening
Marianne I. van Abbe

The main storyline of this film, we are sadly already familiar with, from so many news bulletins over the past years, however the treatment in this movie is different from a few others made on the subject and delicately shows the thoughts, opinions and attitudes of the 2 lead characters, either opposing each other and then in tandem on other occasions. Philomena is touchingly and expertly acted by the ever fabulously talented Dame Judy Dench, but the big surprise for me was Steve Coogan's performance and he certainly has gone up several pegs in my ratings! A realistic portrayal of religious attitudes, interference, cover-ups and self serving behaviour is exposed and so it should! The fact that humour surfaces several times, even in a story which such sad connotations, makes it an appealing film on many levels and it is deserved of awards, without doubt. I dont't want to give the outcome away, because I highly recommend viewing this drama on the big screen and it would take some of the "suspense", the expectation away, if one had all the details.

Marianne I. van Abbe

The main storyline of this film, we are sadly already familiar with, from so many news bulletins over the past years, however the treatment in this movie is different from a few others made on the subject and delicately shows the thoughts, opinions and attitudes of the 2 lead characters, either opposing each other and then in tandem on other occasions. Philomena is touchingly and expertly acted by the ever fabulously talented Dame Judy Dench, but the big surprise for me was Steve Coogan's performance and he certainly has gone up several pegs in my ratings! A realistic portrayal of religious attitudes, interference, cover-ups and self serving behaviour is exposed and so it should! The fact that humour surfaces several times, even in a story which such sad connotations, makes it an appealing film on many levels and it is deserved of awards, without doubt. I dont't want to give the outcome away, because I highly recommend viewing this drama on the big screen and it would take some of the "suspense", the expectation away, if one had all the details.

Jags

A thought provoking and moving film which has a relatively straight forward storyline but includes some unique twists. The stars of the film, a brilliantly restrained and somewhat naïve and composed Dench is complemented by the shrewd and persistant Coogan in their mission to uncover the truth.

Jags

A thought provoking and moving film which has a relatively straight forward storyline but includes some unique twists. The stars of the film, a brilliantly restrained and somewhat naïve and composed Dench is complemented by the shrewd and persistant Coogan in their mission to uncover the truth.

Dzovinar Hadeshian

I saw Philomena four days ago and still feel completely shaken by it. Judy Dench's performance was astounding. I am mesmerised. The best film I've seen in a very long time. I can not recommend it highly enough.

Dzovinar Hadeshian

I saw Philomena four days ago and still feel completely shaken by it. Judy Dench's performance was astounding. I am mesmerised. The best film I've seen in a very long time. I can not recommend it highly enough.

david glowacki

l agree with all the previous comments.A wonderful,moving film with very fine performances.The film is very very loosely based on the real life events.However as a film in it's own right is one of the best of 2013.Some scenes are a bit stretched and others a bit unbelievable,but hey ho..a gem

david glowacki

l agree with all the previous comments.A wonderful,moving film with very fine performances.The film is very very loosely based on the real life events.However as a film in it's own right is one of the best of 2013.Some scenes are a bit stretched and others a bit unbelievable,but hey ho..a gem

Ollie K

Philomena is a fairly unsurprising story, especially once you've seen the overly revealing film trailer. Its genius though is in the telling; this is the first time I've been able to get away from thinking about Alan Partridge when watching Steve Coogan in an acting role while Judi Dench is, even by her own high standards, remarkable as the eponymous heroine. It's a compelling, compassionate film about a tragedy faced by many young women told with humanity and great humour.

Ollie K

Philomena is a fairly unsurprising story, especially once you've seen the overly revealing film trailer. Its genius though is in the telling; this is the first time I've been able to get away from thinking about Alan Partridge when watching Steve Coogan in an acting role while Judi Dench is, even by her own high standards, remarkable as the eponymous heroine. It's a compelling, compassionate film about a tragedy faced by many young women told with humanity and great humour.

Tom Dearden

A film directed by British veteran Stephen Frears, 'Philomena' follows rank with his previous films 'My Beautiful Laundrette' (homosexuality and Thatcherite right wing politics) and 'Dirty Pretty Things' (illegal immigration and a black market in human organs) in disseminating the fascinating and complex duality of life relationships. Co-written by comedian Steve Coogan, starring as Martin Sixsmith - the ex-BBC journalist trying to renovate his career in journalism after a disastrous PR political mistake - 'Philomena' is based on a working class Irish Londoner of the same name (played wonderfully by Judy Dench) who is trying to find her son, who was taken from her and sold to a rich American family. Sixsmith, who's intent on turning Philomena's human interest story into column inches to revive his flagging career, undergoes a journey of self-discovery that leads him back to the brutal convent in Ireland where Phil's son was taken away 50 years ago. The duality is sometimes over pronounced with Phil playing the religious chalky pariah to Martin's cynical cheese, but it makes for a fascinating relationship. Philomena –outgoing, humorous but vulnerably elegant – has harrowing flashbacks to deep loss and pain base on her 'sin' of having sex before marriage and conceiving her child Anthony out of wedlock, for which her family ditches her with the sisters at Roscrea convent out of shame and her child put up for adoption. The couple try to unravel what happened to Anthony and are rebuffed at every turn by the convent, who fabricate stories and steadfastly refuse to help Phil out of a staunch belief her sin cannot be rectified. Its only when the landlady in the local pub offers that the children from the convent were sold off to American families and Martin and Philomena travel to America that they actually begin an emotional journey to unravel the truth about his adoption. It takes us all the way to the US political senate, taking in notions of national and gay pride and generational self-discovery along the way, returning full circle to the rural unkempt graveyard in Roscrea, Ireland. Throughout, Sixsmith's editor pushes the newsman to his limit to get the story and we are introduced to the softer side of Coogan's character and his conflicting dilemma in helping Phil on a human level to revealing this heartbreaking personal story to the world. It is an interesting dynamic that creates suppressed anger, not just at the inhumane practices of the Catholic church, but also that of mainstream news media, to the point you begin wondering which is worse. 'Philomena' says important things about religion and this comes across in Philomena's faith and forgiveness in the unrepentant nature of the sisters and Martin's frustration and acerbic wit. It also brings a comedic edge to the tragedy and makes the audience question what is really important in their own life.

Tom Dearden

A film directed by British veteran Stephen Frears, 'Philomena' follows rank with his previous films 'My Beautiful Laundrette' (homosexuality and Thatcherite right wing politics) and 'Dirty Pretty Things' (illegal immigration and a black market in human organs) in disseminating the fascinating and complex duality of life relationships. Co-written by comedian Steve Coogan, starring as Martin Sixsmith - the ex-BBC journalist trying to renovate his career in journalism after a disastrous PR political mistake - 'Philomena' is based on a working class Irish Londoner of the same name (played wonderfully by Judy Dench) who is trying to find her son, who was taken from her and sold to a rich American family. Sixsmith, who's intent on turning Philomena's human interest story into column inches to revive his flagging career, undergoes a journey of self-discovery that leads him back to the brutal convent in Ireland where Phil's son was taken away 50 years ago. The duality is sometimes over pronounced with Phil playing the religious chalky pariah to Martin's cynical cheese, but it makes for a fascinating relationship. Philomena –outgoing, humorous but vulnerably elegant – has harrowing flashbacks to deep loss and pain base on her 'sin' of having sex before marriage and conceiving her child Anthony out of wedlock, for which her family ditches her with the sisters at Roscrea convent out of shame and her child put up for adoption. The couple try to unravel what happened to Anthony and are rebuffed at every turn by the convent, who fabricate stories and steadfastly refuse to help Phil out of a staunch belief her sin cannot be rectified. Its only when the landlady in the local pub offers that the children from the convent were sold off to American families and Martin and Philomena travel to America that they actually begin an emotional journey to unravel the truth about his adoption. It takes us all the way to the US political senate, taking in notions of national and gay pride and generational self-discovery along the way, returning full circle to the rural unkempt graveyard in Roscrea, Ireland. Throughout, Sixsmith's editor pushes the newsman to his limit to get the story and we are introduced to the softer side of Coogan's character and his conflicting dilemma in helping Phil on a human level to revealing this heartbreaking personal story to the world. It is an interesting dynamic that creates suppressed anger, not just at the inhumane practices of the Catholic church, but also that of mainstream news media, to the point you begin wondering which is worse. 'Philomena' says important things about religion and this comes across in Philomena's faith and forgiveness in the unrepentant nature of the sisters and Martin's frustration and acerbic wit. It also brings a comedic edge to the tragedy and makes the audience question what is really important in their own life.

Grazyna

A thought-provoking, realistic and balanced story, with moments to make you laugh and cry.

Grazyna

A thought-provoking, realistic and balanced story, with moments to make you laugh and cry.

Debra

Philomena is one of those rare films which manages to take you on a thought-provoking journey through a wide range of emotions, leaving you thankful that the British film industry continue to transpose the human interest story onto celluloid. Judi Dench breathes life into Philomea, showing us a woman of quiet determination, elegance and faith, while Steve Coogan as Martin is allowed to say what we are all thinking, expecially during a heartwrenching finale. Equal parts comedy, drama and historical reflection, I urge anyone who appreciates cinematic storytelling and acting brilliance to see Philomena without delay.

Debra

Philomena is one of those rare films which manages to take you on a thought-provoking journey through a wide range of emotions, leaving you thankful that the British film industry continue to transpose the human interest story onto celluloid. Judi Dench breathes life into Philomea, showing us a woman of quiet determination, elegance and faith, while Steve Coogan as Martin is allowed to say what we are all thinking, expecially during a heartwrenching finale. Equal parts comedy, drama and historical reflection, I urge anyone who appreciates cinematic storytelling and acting brilliance to see Philomena without delay.

Isabelle

Makes you think about life, religion and people relations. Judi Dench in one of her best roles. Totally worth it.

Isabelle

Makes you think about life, religion and people relations. Judi Dench in one of her best roles. Totally worth it.

michel

Philomena is like Deadly Endings the best selling novel, both look at the Catholic Church stealing babies. Deadly Endings by Raymond Russell has just been released in paperback and shows the pain and heartbreak of a young Spanish woman, whose baby was stolen by Catholic nuns in Madrid. Unlike The film Philomena, Deadly Endings has an in depth view of the way women have been generally overpowered by society. Definitely a five star heart-breaking story.

michel

Philomena is like Deadly Endings the best selling novel, both look at the Catholic Church stealing babies. Deadly Endings by Raymond Russell has just been released in paperback and shows the pain and heartbreak of a young Spanish woman, whose baby was stolen by Catholic nuns in Madrid. Unlike The film Philomena, Deadly Endings has an in depth view of the way women have been generally overpowered by society. Definitely a five star heart-breaking story.

nickc

doesn't live up to the hype i'm afraid. Lead actors are excellent but overall stretches the material very slowly and without tension. No tears shed here

nickc

doesn't live up to the hype i'm afraid. Lead actors are excellent but overall stretches the material very slowly and without tension. No tears shed here

Juan Carlos

Very difficult not to agree with all the positives stated in the other viewers reviews. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will make you despair and very angry with the abysmal treatment of the young, in some cases very young, girls by a church that they had been indoctrinated to obey who betrayed their trust. Dench is superb and Coogan is much better than I expected. Expect to feel very angry at the end at the injustice of it all. A film everyone should see and it seemed like a lot are from the very full cinema tonight. A very good four star film. I would thoroughly recommend it.

Juan Carlos

Very difficult not to agree with all the positives stated in the other viewers reviews. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will make you despair and very angry with the abysmal treatment of the young, in some cases very young, girls by a church that they had been indoctrinated to obey who betrayed their trust. Dench is superb and Coogan is much better than I expected. Expect to feel very angry at the end at the injustice of it all. A film everyone should see and it seemed like a lot are from the very full cinema tonight. A very good four star film. I would thoroughly recommend it.

Alexandra

It's not a feel good movie, it's a very real and human movie. Philomena will touch your heart with her sharp and insightful humor, her faith, her strength and most of all her loving and forgiving heart.

Alexandra

It's not a feel good movie, it's a very real and human movie. Philomena will touch your heart with her sharp and insightful humor, her faith, her strength and most of all her loving and forgiving heart.

Paula3440

We got tickets free as a Time Out Card members. Thank you TO! Great story well told. Judi Dench is an amazing actress. Bitter sweet sensation will go through your body, it will make you cry and laugh. Must see !

Paula3440

We got tickets free as a Time Out Card members. Thank you TO! Great story well told. Judi Dench is an amazing actress. Bitter sweet sensation will go through your body, it will make you cry and laugh. Must see !

Katie M

Philomena is a poignant story beautifully well told. I don't go to the cinema often for fear of (costly) disappointment however this film was an exceptional exception. The story is captivating from the outset (and it's true!!), Judi Dench as Philamena captures your heart and Steve Coogan provides genuine moments of lightheartedness (and laughter!). I loved it (and so did everyone else judging from the applause, yes applause at the end in the cinema!) Go see, go see!

Katie M

Philomena is a poignant story beautifully well told. I don't go to the cinema often for fear of (costly) disappointment however this film was an exceptional exception. The story is captivating from the outset (and it's true!!), Judi Dench as Philamena captures your heart and Steve Coogan provides genuine moments of lightheartedness (and laughter!). I loved it (and so did everyone else judging from the applause, yes applause at the end in the cinema!) Go see, go see!

Ola

Philomena is an excellent film. It is based on a true story that needed to be told. It is a moving film that is told with a clever combination of sensitivity and humour. Judi Dench and Steve Coogan are fantastic and i have recommended it to several people. Its a real gem.

Ola

Philomena is an excellent film. It is based on a true story that needed to be told. It is a moving film that is told with a clever combination of sensitivity and humour. Judi Dench and Steve Coogan are fantastic and i have recommended it to several people. Its a real gem.

Mark

Very funny, good comedy. I really enjoyed the film, excellent. I am happy to recommend this film. You will not be disappointed.

Mark

Very funny, good comedy. I really enjoyed the film, excellent. I am happy to recommend this film. You will not be disappointed.

MikeT

The trailer on TV goes something like "It'll make you laugh, it'll make you cry". Hmmmmmmm. I'm usually wary of any film that promises emotions. Yes, there were occasional chuckle-worthy moments, but it certainly wasn't hilarious. That said, it's a good film, and I was impressed that Steve Coogan had written, acted, and produced this movie. He and Judi Dench work well, and are completely convincing. Not sure it'll sweep the boards at the Oscars, but can see it'll pick up a few awards - certainly I think it's worthy of a best screenplay nomination. 7/10 or 3.5 stars. (Sorry, not quite good enough for 4 stars.)

MikeT

The trailer on TV goes something like "It'll make you laugh, it'll make you cry". Hmmmmmmm. I'm usually wary of any film that promises emotions. Yes, there were occasional chuckle-worthy moments, but it certainly wasn't hilarious. That said, it's a good film, and I was impressed that Steve Coogan had written, acted, and produced this movie. He and Judi Dench work well, and are completely convincing. Not sure it'll sweep the boards at the Oscars, but can see it'll pick up a few awards - certainly I think it's worthy of a best screenplay nomination. 7/10 or 3.5 stars. (Sorry, not quite good enough for 4 stars.)

Renate Nahum

Beautifully cast, Philomena shows Judy Dench at her best, tender. forgiving grappling with her Catholic history with equal strength and emotion. Steve Coogan, who is not best known as the most sensitive man, is perfect in the role as Martin Sixsmith, a hard-bitten spin-doctor who gradually has all the edges knocked off him and discovers his tender and caring side. As sensitive a handling of a real life story as could be wished for that never tips over into self-indulgent maudlin.

Renate Nahum

Beautifully cast, Philomena shows Judy Dench at her best, tender. forgiving grappling with her Catholic history with equal strength and emotion. Steve Coogan, who is not best known as the most sensitive man, is perfect in the role as Martin Sixsmith, a hard-bitten spin-doctor who gradually has all the edges knocked off him and discovers his tender and caring side. As sensitive a handling of a real life story as could be wished for that never tips over into self-indulgent maudlin.

Cristina A.

Philomena is a sad story, beautifully brought on the screen by the talented Frears. Judy Dench and Steve Coogan play two delightful characters. Their performance is marvellous. Even though living in two very different worlds, Philomena and Martin develop a strong friendship and both end up learning about forgiveness, acceptance, catholic church and life in general. I very much enjoyed this movie and I would watch it again.

Cristina A.

Philomena is a sad story, beautifully brought on the screen by the talented Frears. Judy Dench and Steve Coogan play two delightful characters. Their performance is marvellous. Even though living in two very different worlds, Philomena and Martin develop a strong friendship and both end up learning about forgiveness, acceptance, catholic church and life in general. I very much enjoyed this movie and I would watch it again.

E. wilson

I am not a film fan.This was my first film in 7 years. I simply loved it. It was all a film should be warm, funny and intellengently written. With acting so food you felt right there as part of everything going on. Demonstrating we do not need, blood and guts to enjoy a movie. Ye loved it

E. wilson

I am not a film fan.This was my first film in 7 years. I simply loved it. It was all a film should be warm, funny and intellengently written. With acting so food you felt right there as part of everything going on. Demonstrating we do not need, blood and guts to enjoy a movie. Ye loved it

Hollie

A couple of holes in the plot did not detract from the great acting and interesting story told here. It's one that stays with you for a while. Recommended.

Hollie

A couple of holes in the plot did not detract from the great acting and interesting story told here. It's one that stays with you for a while. Recommended.

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