Inspired by true events, this Oscar nominated drama is at times quite charming, humorous, quirky and yet filled with moments of sadness. It's a fascinating story but some of it's sharp turns seem to come at the wrong time. Stephen Frears's direction embraces the story and gives his stars plenty of freedom to play off each other but somehow the emotional impact of the story is diminished, due in part to these characters themselves.
Judi Dench plays Philomena Lee, a woman who is forced by the nuns where she lives to give up her young son born out of wedlock. Some 50 years later she decides to try to locate him with the help of a British journalist played by Steve Coogan. Ms. Dench is wonderful as always, here playing a woman with a difficult personality. And in that lies the conundrum, she's just too warm and intelligent an actress to play a woman like Philomena. Mr. Coogan, who co-wrote the screenplay gives a low key but strong performance and saves some of the film's best lines for himself.
If you are unfamiliar with the story, the film will take you on an unexpected journey that will amuse you, anger you and may ultimately warm your heart but a Best Picture nomination seems forced by the subject matter rather than the merit of the film itself.
Seek out a 2002 Irish film called "The Magdalene Sisters" for a honest and compelling look at the origins of Philomena's story.