Michael Casey’s review published on Letterboxd:
Philomena is based on the true story of Philomena Lee, a woman who was separated from her son as a teenager and spent her entire life thinking of him and praying for his safety. Playing Philomena is Judi Dench (Sophie Kennedy Clark in flashbacks), and I cannot think of anyone else I would rather watch doing so. Dench is an actress of the highest order, one who has aged with grace, and in Philomena she lets ever wrinkle and crease tell a story. A picture is worth a thousand words, but Dench’s face might be worth a million. Most actors act, but it is the great ones that make you believe, and Philomena is a movie that really needs the audience to believe. To believe that Philomena can actually summon up forgiveness from the bottom of her heart and hand it over to the person who cut her the deepest. If the actress simply says the words, “I forgive you,” the moment looses all impact and the movie crumbles. Not with Dench at the helm. With Dench, that moment becomes the movie, quite possibly the reason the movie yearned to be made in the first place.
The search for Anthony is the MacGuffin, what is most important is what we learn about Martin and Philomena. Martin is down and out, cynical, and cranky. Compared to Philomena, he’s far too lucky and far too young to be as cantankerous as he is. You could say that Martin is us on a bad day, and we have been having far too many of those lately. Philomena isn’t the other side of the coin, or on the other hand, she is a different person entirely. She is a modern-day saint. I couldn’t help but wonder what Roberto Rossellini would have thought of her. She is honest, frank, and full of life. She fills herself more with forgiveness than she does with anger. She tells people that they are, “One in a million,” converses with cooks and waitresses as if they are (shock) real people, and finds no end of amusement in the sillier things in life. Watching her giggle while she describes the plot to Big Momma’s House not only made me want to watch it, but love it totally. Everyone deserves a Philomena in his or her life.
Full review here: michaeljcinema.wordpress.com/2013/11/21/philomena/