This is one of those movies that would fall apart in less capable hands. But directed by Stephen Frears and starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, the modest Philomena is a real treat. It’s based on a true story of a woman who reveals a long-held secret: When she was a teenager, she gave her son up for adoption. Journalist Martin Sixsmith (Coogan) picks up the story and travels with Philomena (Dench) to Washington, D.C., where she hopes to pick up a paper trail on her son. Again, this is pretty simple stuff and most movies along these lines don’t try to do much of anything with it. But Frears is a master—The Queen, The Grifters, Dirty Pretty Things, High Fidelity—and Judi Dench is Judi Dench. The real surprise is Coogan, the great English comedian who co-wrote the script and tones it down to great effect here.
Director: Stephen Frears
Producer: Gabrielle Tana, Steve Coogan, Tracey Seaward, Henry Normal, Christine Langan, Cameron McCracken, François Ivernel and Carolyn Blackwood
Cast: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Michelle Fairley, Barbara Jefford, Anna Maxwell Martin, Mare Winningham, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Peter Hermann and Ruth McCabe