Daniel Kibbe’s review published on Letterboxd:
And with that, I've seen all the Best Picture nominees for this year.
This film is rather rote, and painfully average. The story is of little interest, the first half stepping in strides of painful melodrama and sentimental cliches. While it definitely raises the dramatic stakes and elevates itself somewhat in the final act, that can't stop it from deriding into a simple human interest story.
The acting is fine, but it's rarely given room to breathe. Instead Stephen Frears' almost amateur level direction often takes away any true expansion on these rather plain characters. Dench plays the kind and innocent grandma archetype effectively, but her character is rather shallow, and all her ethos lies within that archetype. Still, she does fine with the material. The same could be said for Steve Coogan, who plays the "cynical journalist" who bonds with Philomena. The pair have some charming chemistry and pleasant banter, but - along with the rest of the film - remain ever-so unadorned.
The movie isn't bad really - I liked some of the familiar, yet admirable music by Alexander Desplat, as well as a few witty lines, and the decent performances - but overall, Philomena remains a cute little film that fails to innovate, captivate, or fascinate.