Having been a BBC reporter and then involved in politics as a spin doctor Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) finds himself at a loose end after getting the sack and contemplating writing a book on Russian history or something. It is then he is approached by Jane (Anna Maxwell Martin) who has just learned that 50 years ago her mother Philomena (Judi Dench) had given birth to a son out of wedlock and as a "fallen woman" was forced to stay with the nuns at the convent of Roscrea who against her will sent her son for adoption in America when he was a toddler. After meeting Philomena and visiting the convent where he finds himself being stonewalled by the nuns Martin accompanies Philomena to America to try and find her son, a journey which creates a bond between Philomena and Martin full of surprises.
"Philomena" is one of those movies which works but because of every single thing coming together rather than just one thing and that is a nightmare for a movie reviewer because to do this movie justice I would have to go through everything and in doing so I would have to rob you of the movie's charm and surprises. As such I will keep this brief but promise you that "Philomena" is a movie which will grab your attention and keep you entertained right up until the last.
Now of course there is the storyline to "Philomena" which is based on a real storyline and it opens up the audiences eyes to the practices which went on during the 50s where some out of wedlock mothers had there babies taken from them. But this isn't a movie which is about the condemnation of the past but it is about the journey which Philomena and Martin went on in America in search of her son. And as such it we have this humour of a cynical reporter travelling with this sweet little old lady with some naive ideas but despite their differences end up bonding.
But what you also get in "Philomena" is the combination of Judi Dench and Steve Coogan who balance each other out. What I mean is that an entire movie with Steve Coogan playing a cynical but slightly bungling reporter would be monotonous but so would an entire movie of Judi Dench playing the sweet little lady saying things which if someone said them it would cause offence. Yet the two together balance things out so perfectly that you warm to them and interested in the way they bond and the conversations they have especially when it comes to religion.
What this all boils down to is that "Philomena" is one of those rare occurrences where a movie works because all the parts of it work and if just one thing hadn't the balance would have been so far out it wouldn't have worked.