Jonathan White’s review published on Letterboxd:
I missed Philomena during last year’s Oscar run-up .. possibly intentionally. Perusing the British Airways VOD selection on a recent flight, sure enough, there it was. Well, maybe on the way back, I thought, in the meantime I’ll watch The Lego Movie, and then, er, maybe Saving Mr. Banks. Return flight time, and it’s still there. My Wife reinforcing that I should watch it … it’s good. Myself, still somehow less than inspired. Maybe watch RoboCop 2014 first. Ok, 4 hours left to go .. I’ll try Philomena.
I love Dench, and I’m OK with Coogan, but somehow feared that I’d been in for a mawkish ride. I’ll have to say that Denche’s adroit skills sidestepped that pitfall. Her portrayal of the titular Philomena came across as completely honest, and completely believable.
Where I had the problem was with Coogan, or rather how he and co-writer Jeff Pope wrote the Martin Sixsmith character he portrays. While I could tolerate his smugness at the beginning as an introduction to his character, I felt he carried it on far too long. The only reason I could think is that he and Pope didn’t have confidence that the actual story would be of interest, and had to weave in a redemption angle for Sixsmith. Perhaps I’m bothered because I saw just this type of meddling with a true story during my outbound flight when I watched Saving Mr. Banks. It just smacks of manipulation.
Philomena was a good enough airplane movie, almost completely on the back of Judy Dench’s formidable talent, but I’m sure glad I didn’t lay down the price of a pre-Oscar theatrical ticket.