“Philomena” is a wonderfully told true story starring the stalwart Judi Dench, as a grown mother of a boy she hasn’t seen since giving up the toddler 50 years earlier. This Oscar nominated film in the ‘Best Motion Picture of the Year’ category didn’t garner the acclaim for the excellence it deserves when it hit the theaters last fall. ‘Philomena’ is one of my Top 10 movies of 2013.
Dench easily provides her strongest performance to date, earning an Academy Award nomination for ‘Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role’. While her accolades are well-deserved, they’d be less likely without an equally fine performance from Steve Coogan, who anchors the film as an investigative reporter.
Coogan’s less diplomatic approach to handling roadblocks that emerge during the search for the toddler compliments Dench’s demeanor and her perseverance. He often asks the difficult questions that he knows won’t provide them with any satisfying answers--but still need to be asked and answered. Coogan and Dench also provide many laughs sprinkled throughout the film; mostly at the expense of their differences in generations, but always uncontrived and with a natural delivery.
Viewers will find the religious practices of the Catholic Church, and certain members of it, appalling and unable to justify how a place that attempts to offer one so much hope, can instead, inflict so much pain upon the faithful? It is at this point where the movie finds its real merit--inside one’s heart. The same Catholicism that created such a burden for a mother to bear is the same religion and faith that allows her to do the most unselfish act of all—to forgive.