Philomena ★★★

A heartbreaking story that sadly happened all too often to hundreds of women around the world in that time period (and afterwards), Philomena doesn't quite hit the mark as the comedy it wants to be but is solid enough as a straight drama.

I've read about a third of Martin Sixsmith's book and it has a much greater focus on the nuts and bolts of the forced adoption system and about Michael's life with his new parents, but Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope's script does the right thing by making this completely Philomena's story. It's perfectly paced and the flashbacks peppered throughout the film come at just the right time, while director Stephen Frears presents each of the revelations about Philomena's son with little fanfare. Considering I knew the entire story going in, it was refreshing to see the story's turning points not being presented as Big Dramatic Moments.

The little old lady/grumpy atheist dichotomy is far too obvious, and it's reinforced at every available opportunity by Martin's religious cynicism, but Judi Dench and Steve Coogan are both quite good in their roles and are perfectly matched. Overall, Philomena is an enjoyable watch for ninety minutes that provides the odd laugh.

(But most of all I cried. A lot.)

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