Philomena 2013

Critics score:
92 / 100

Reviews provided by RottenTomatoes

Mary Corliss, TIME Magazine: Frears, in fine form at 72, has proved himself a modest master at juggling the serious and the silly in such actors' showcases as The Queen and Tamara Drewe; and the script by Coogan and Jeff Pope, brims with bright dialogue. Read more

Kyle Smith, New York Post: A witless bore about a ninny and a jerk having one of those dire, heavily staged, only-in-movies odd-couple road trips. Read more

Rex Reed, New York Observer: One of the most eloquent, powerful and perfect movies I have ever seen. Read more

Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal: With ample blame to go around, a piece of fiction comes up short on facts. Read more

Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times: An utterly charming combination of road trip, odd-couple comedy and heart-touching true story that will leave few dry-eyed, "Philomena" rests comfortably in the lap of the great Judi Dench. Read more

Justin Chang, Variety: A howl of anti-clerical outrage wrapped in a tea cozy, "Philomena" applies amusing banter and a sheen of good taste to the real-life quest of Philomena Lee. Read more

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, AV Club: A sober consideration of how ideals relate to institutions-whether they're religions or political parties-anchored by two well-rounded, funny lead performances. Read more

Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic: Director Stephen Frears manages to successfully walk the tricky line between comedy and dark drama. It keeps the audience off-kilter a bit, but in a good way; we shouldn't always need to know what's coming next, in terms of tone or plot. Read more

Ty Burr, Boston Globe: "Philomena" is a tearjerker of rare honesty and craft. Read more

J. R. Jones, Chicago Reader: The story touches on some of the thorniest issues of Catholic doctrine and tempers its righteous anger with a tone more sad than bitter. Read more

Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor: If not for the expertness of [the] actors, Philomena would be a sloggy journey indeed. Fortunately, Dench and Coogan are more than capable of turning water into wine. Read more

Tom Long, Detroit News: Dench is a delight, playing dowdy instead of her standard regal, and Coogan is appropriately droll and disillusioned. Together they manage to make a sad story feel somehow bright. Read more

Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly: Dench and Coogan's chemistry is undeniably great. Read more

William Goss, Judi Dench gives a remarkably well-realized performance. Read more

Wesley Morris, Grantland: It's smart and unsweetened. Read more

Deborah Young, Hollywood Reporter: Stephen Frears returns to top form in a touching, at times funny true story of grave injustice and a mother's search for closure. Read more

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times: Dench is not the only reason to see this unapologetic crowd-pleaser, but she is the best one. Read more

Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press: We wouldn't care about any of this if the performances were weak. But both actors find complexity and depth. Read more

Connie Ogle, Miami Herald: Much of the beauty of Philomena, which was directed by Stephen Frears (The Queen), lies in its odd-couple characters and the superb actors portraying them. Read more

Anthony Lane, New Yorker: We prepared ourselves for an emotional explosion-not for physical violence, but for that of a bursting heart-and yet, when the time came, that is not what happened. Frears put the pin back in the grenade, as it were. Read more

Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger: Coogan was raised Catholic and the hypocrisies and horrors of this story clearly hit him in the way they can only strike those who still remember weekly confession, fish on Fridays and kneeling, unquestioningly, at the altar rail. Read more

Bob Mondello, NPR: Matched recovery stories: How's that for human interest? Read more

Elizabeth Weitzman, New York Daily News: The way these two talents connect - and strengthen Frears' tenuous tone - is enough to soften any cynic's heart. Read more

Stephen Holden, New York Times: Judi Dench's portrayal of a stubborn, kindhearted Irish Catholic trying to discover what became of the toddler she was forced to give up as a teenager is so quietly moving that it feels lit from within. Read more

Michael Sragow, Orange County Register: The chemistry between Steve Coogan as a snooty journalist and Judi Dench as a retired nurse searching for her son brings humor and warmth to a harrowing tale of the plight of unwed Irish Catholic mothers in the 1950s. Read more

Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer: A true story that takes unexpected, unusually poignant turns. Read more

James Berardinelli, ReelViews: It's simple and well-told, although nothing about it is breathtakingly original. Read more

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: It's Dench, showing how faith and hellraising can reside in the same woman, who makes Philomena moving and memorable. Read more

Andrew O'Hehir, A subtly told tale of tragedy and redemption, with much of the sentimental payoff you're expecting but several intriguing plot twists along the way. Read more

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: Go beyond the manner of its telling and you find a story of cruelty and evil, of shocking acts committed under a veneer of civility and sanctity. Read more

Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune: Judi Dench plays the title role in "Philomena" with her usual authenticity, which is reason enough to see it, but there are so many more. Read more

Joe Williams, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Dench, Coogan and sure-handed director Stephen Frears ("The Queen") keep the focus on character, and in "Philomena" they've got an earthbound angel. Read more

Bill Zwecker, Chicago Sun-Times: Director Steven Frears deserves special mention. A lesser filmmaker could so easily have turned this project into mushy, sentimental junk. The tear-jerking moments here are heartfelt and real. It's the kind of filmmaking we see too little of today. Read more

Jon Frosch, The Atlantic: Frears gives the story a slick makeover, blending melodrama and comedy with brisk professionalism and a hearty helping of schmaltz. But Dench and Coogan sell it well. Read more

Liam Lacey, Globe and Mail: What at first seems formulaic comedy gains a deeper resonance as we see how they represent two responses to cruelty and injustice -- first outrage, and with time, eventually, forgiveness. Read more

Peter Howell, Toronto Star: Even as Philomena embraces the expected feel-good dynamics, it avoids taking the usual path and doesn't paint all of the "evil" nuns with the same brush. Read more

Alonso Duralde, TheWrap: Even if the film eventually forces a singular perspective on the material, the actors' chemistry absolves any number of narrative sins. Read more

Dave Calhoun, Time Out: A terrifically moving film that has a fitting earthbound feel to it as well as a barely suppressed anger at crimes inflicted on the powerless Read more

Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out: Watch both actors lean into characters seeking redemption; their clash is invigorating, with a mature payoff that has two minds meeting and getting further along. Read more

Claudia Puig, USA Today: Judi Dench brings the Irish-born Philomena to life with good humor and dignity. It's a wonderfully memorable performance by one of the acting world's greats. Read more

Inkoo Kang, Village Voice: This affecting, impressively intelligent drama follows one elderly woman's search for her biological son, who was sold without her permission five decades earlier to a rich woman who pets the boy as she might a cat. Read more

David Edelstein, New York Magazine/Vulture: The movie is overcalculating and occasionally coarse, but it has a gentle spirit. We should count its existence as a blessing. Read more

Ann Hornaday, Washington Post: At its core, this clever, wrenching, profound story underscores the tenacity of faith in the face of unfathomable cruelty. Read more