Jordan Benesh’s review published on Letterboxd:
In director Stephen Frears' Philomena -- based on the book by former BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith -- we, as an audience, are brought along on a journey with Sixsmith (played by Steve Coogan) and the titular Philomena Lee (Judi Dench).
Philomena, a strong-willed Irish Catholic, had a son out of wedlock who was then adopted -- or perhaps sold, rather -- at a young age; now, 50 years later, she is searching for him with the help of Sixsmith, down-and-out from his BBC job and now taking on a human interest piece.
Philomena has all the makings of a Lifetime movie, but rest assured, it's far better, as it shows true care and compassion for its characters and prefers to meddle in hopeful positivity and realism instead of wallowing in negativity and sad-sack yearning.
Dench and Coogan are each tremendous in their roles, and I found a lot to like about them as primary characters. The pair play well off each other, Coogan's stressed, middle-aged British man cast against Dench's easygoing, sweet old Irish woman.
Suffice to say, I liked it quite a bit. If you get the chance, check it out.