The Ron’s review published on Letterboxd:
It's seems like it took me forever, but now that I've seen Philomena I've now seen all of the best picture nominees from the 86th Annual Academy Awards. I wasn't able to see it in theaters so I had to wait until it's blu-ray release and arrival via Netflix. It wasn't as high on my list to see as the other nominees, but as it turns out it's a pretty good film in it's own right. Inspired by true events it's a fairly depressing story and one well worth knowing about.
Based on The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, a 2009 investigative book by BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), Philomena tells the story of Philomena Lee's (Judi Dench) search for her long lost son. Philomena had her son out of wedlock, and was forced to live in a convent while her son was given up for adoption. After years of searching, and not being able to find her son Anthony, Lee agrees to let Sixsmith help her find him.
This is a pretty heartbreaking story. I'm a father of two boys, and I can't imagine being without them for a minute much less a lifetime. Philomena's desire to find her son is one I think most of us would share. Even when I'm away from my boys I feel a connection that I doubt will ever go away. Not knowing what happened to one of them would eat me alive, and that's exactly what Philomena is going through. What makes it worse for her is the circumstances in which her son was taken, and the unwillingness of the nuns at the convent to help her. It just goes to show that shitty people come in all forms.
Judi Dench is a true professional. She's turned in a good performance in every film I've seen her in and does so with a grace and class that should be admired. Coogan is more of mixed bag for me but he's excellent here, and has wonderful chemistry with Dench. I really enjoyed their differing belief systems, and how that dynamic affected the story. Martin a man who doesn't have much faith if any at all and Philomena who is struggling to hold on to the faith she's had most of her life. It makes for some interesting even comedic moments in the film.
As depressing as the story is, director Stephen Frears along with writers Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope inject the film without enough lighthearted humor to keep it from being a total downer. I really enjoyed Philomena's view of the world especially when they come to the United States.
In the end Philomena is a very likable film. I don't think it's best picture nominee worthy as there were other films I'd rather of seen nominated, but it's a good film in the really good year that was 2013. It's a sad story with a dash of comic relief that I'd recommend to anyone.