Philomena - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Philomena Reviews

December 22, 2013
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.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
December 10, 2013
It's smart and unsweetened.
November 28, 2013
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.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
November 27, 2013
We wouldn't care about any of this if the performances were weak. But both actors find complexity and depth.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
November 27, 2013
At its core, this clever, wrenching, profound story underscores the tenacity of faith in the face of unfathomable cruelty.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
November 27, 2013
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.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
November 27, 2013
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.
Full Review | Original Score: B
November 27, 2013
A true story that takes unexpected, unusually poignant turns.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
November 26, 2013
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.
Full Review | Original Score: A-
November 26, 2013
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.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
November 26, 2013
"Philomena" is a tearjerker of rare honesty and craft.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
November 26, 2013
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 | Original Score: 4/4
November 26, 2013
The story touches on some of the thorniest issues of Catholic doctrine and tempers its righteous anger with a tone more sad than bitter.
November 26, 2013
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.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
November 26, 2013
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.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
November 26, 2013
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.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
November 26, 2013
Dench, Coogan and sure-handed director Stephen Frears ("The Queen") keep the focus on character, and in "Philomena" they've got an earthbound angel.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
November 25, 2013
It's simple and well-told, although nothing about it is breathtakingly original.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
November 22, 2013
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.
Full Review | Original Score: B
November 22, 2013
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.
November 22, 2013
The movie is overcalculating and occasionally coarse, but it has a gentle spirit. We should count its existence as a blessing.
November 22, 2013
Judi Dench gives a remarkably well-realized performance.
November 22, 2013
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 | Original Score: 3/4
November 22, 2013
Most of its pleasures come from the way it confounds expectations.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
Top Critic
November 21, 2013
Matched recovery stories: How's that for human interest?
November 21, 2013
With ample blame to go around, a piece of fiction comes up short on facts.
November 21, 2013
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.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
November 21, 2013
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.
November 21, 2013
Dench is not the only reason to see this unapologetic crowd-pleaser, but she is the best one.
November 21, 2013
A witless bore about a ninny and a jerk having one of those dire, heavily staged, only-in-movies odd-couple road trips.
Full Review | Original Score: 1/4
November 21, 2013
The way these two talents connect - and strengthen Frears' tenuous tone - is enough to soften any cynic's heart.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/5
November 21, 2013
A sober consideration of how ideals relate to institutions-whether they're religions or political parties-anchored by two well-rounded, funny lead performances.
Full Review | Original Score: B
November 21, 2013
It's Dench, showing how faith and hellraising can reside in the same woman, who makes Philomena moving and memorable.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
November 20, 2013
Dench and Coogan's chemistry is undeniably great.
Full Review | Original Score: A-
Top Critic
November 20, 2013
One of the most eloquent, powerful and perfect movies I have ever seen.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
November 19, 2013
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.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
November 19, 2013
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.
November 19, 2013
"Philomena" eventually turns into a thoughtful treatise on the way the past has the power to dictate our actions and feelings in the present.
November 15, 2013
Even if the film eventually forces a singular perspective on the material, the actors' chemistry absolves any number of narrative sins.
September 13, 2013
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.
September 13, 2013
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.
September 13, 2013
Stephen Frears returns to top form in a touching, at times funny true story of grave injustice and a mother's search for closure.
September 13, 2013
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.
September 4, 2013
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
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
September 3, 2013
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.