Judi Dench and Steve Coogan are the unlikely double-act in Stephen Frears’ Bafta-winning drama, which tackles the painful issue of enforced adoption within the Catholic Church with warmth and humanity.
Coogan plays journalist Martin Sixsmith, who becomes intrigued by the story of Philomena Lee (Dench), who as a pregnant teenager in Ireland was shipped off to a convent where nuns forcibly adopted her child. Profoundly affected by her story, Sixsmith convinces her to challenge the convent for answers, leading a trail to America where they uncover the extraordinary story of her long-lost son.
British cinema’s dextrous and deft-handed veteran Stephen Frears steers the tone perfectly between light humour and devastating drama, corralling an impressive straight-role from the usually comic Coogan along with a performance of remarkable dignity from Judi Dench. The result is a film that astonishes for its quiet power; shining a light on a disturbing, forgotten history while leaving viewers optimistic and enlightened.