“Philomena” somehow manages to be a great human story in the face of a gloomy storyline. Sometimes the drama is so good and emotionally engaging that you can miss the numerous jokes that add the perfect touch to the dourness. Ultimately, “Philomena” is one of the years best dramas.
Based on a book written by former BBC journalist Martin Sixsmith about the real life Philomena Lee’s tragic story, the film follows Philomena (Judi Dench) as she searches for her son. Fifty years prior Philomena was a young teen who got pregnant and was forced to live in a convent. Unfortunately, for her and the other teen mothers at the convent, the nuns eventually sold their children.
After a lifetime of holding on to her secret, we find Philomena ready to tell her story with the help of Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), a BBC journalist in need of a new story. Embarking on a road trip that stretches from Ireland to the United States, the pessimistic and faithless Sixsmith and undereducated but faith-filled Philomena are the perfect yin and yang for one another. They both learn about themselves through their interaction with each other and search for Philomena's son.
Dench gives a great performance leaving her usual regal, sophisticated type cast for a common, underwhelming character. Coogan deserves equal praise for his minimal understated performance, which went against type as well. The film’s script and editing makes for a film that you can’t stop watching. “Philomena” is a road trip that will take you through the gamut of the human experience and ends on a surprisingly hopeful note in spite of its‘ content.