DirkH’s review published on Letterboxd:
Philomena is a gentle, but somewhat forgettable, character study that ambles along comfortably always opting for sincerity instead of manipulation.
Carried by an endearing performance by Dench, Philomena's story is given a treatment always flirting with melodrama, but never giving in. Frears' film tries to find balance between a tear and a smile, slowly unfolding the bizarre story. And while we discover the why and the what we get to know our two protagonists and it is their company that makes this film so enjoyable.
Both Coogan's and Dench's performances are understated, making their words and actions carry more weight. The main focus lies with Philomena, with Sixsmith operating as the Devil's advocate providing us insight into her character and her choices. And in the meantime Sixsmith learns a thing or two about himself as well.
And that is it. The story is interesting as are the characters, but it also felt a bit too safe and reserved in the approach of its subject matter. As much as I appreciate the fact that Frears did not try to be overly manipulative, I did remain disconnected to the film, admiring the craft but never getting truly involved. Still, the performances and the characters they give life to are more than worthy of your time.