Nick Bramham’s review published on Letterboxd:
Just as Coogan's character, Martin Sixsmith, was at first cynical about reporting on Philomena's 'human interest story', I too was cynical about the relative merits of this film. Based solely on what I had seen in the trailer it was surely just another look-at-me awards-season weepie, a 'based on a true story' character piece, carefully calibrated to have the audience in bits and the stars and filmmakers festooned with gongs.
But, like Coogan's character, I was drawn-in, charmed and eventually moved by this fascinating story - a bona fide you-couldn't-make-it-upper - which at times plays out like the most gripping thriller.
Coogan and Dench are both superb, with their excellent 'odd couple' chemistry being the source of most of the laughs, and providing the necessary levity in a story which has real darkness at its core. It is shocking the way Philomena and her peers were treated when they were young and infuriating that the parties responsible are still putting up boundaries against their unearthing the truth to this very day.
So yes, it is 'based on a true story' and it is 'carefully calibrated to have the audience in bits', but there is nothing cynical about it. This is an important, essential story, very well told. And, if the stars and filmmakers are festooned with gongs then they absolutely deserve it.