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.
Liam Lacey, Globe and Mail, 2013-12-22
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.
Peter Howell, Toronto Star, 2013-11-28
We wouldn't care about any of this if the performances were weak. But both actors find complexity and depth.
Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press, 2013-11-27
At its core, this clever, wrenching, profound story underscores the tenacity of faith in the face of unfathomable cruelty.
Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, 2013-11-27
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.
Bill Zwecker, Chicago Sun-Times, 2013-11-27
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.
Tom Long, Detroit News, 2013-11-27
A true story that takes unexpected, unusually poignant turns.
Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer, 2013-11-27
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.
Michael Sragow, Orange County Register, 2013-11-26
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.
Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle, 2013-11-26
"Philomena" is a tearjerker of rare honesty and craft.
Ty Burr, Boston Globe, 2013-11-26
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.
Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times, 2013-11-26
The story touches on some of the thorniest issues of Catholic doctrine and tempers its righteous anger with a tone more sad than bitter.
J. R. Jones, Chicago Reader, 2013-11-26
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.
Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 2013-11-26
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.
Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic, 2013-11-26
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.
Connie Ogle, Miami Herald, 2013-11-26
Dench, Coogan and sure-handed director Stephen Frears ("The Queen") keep the focus on character, and in "Philomena" they've got an earthbound angel.
Joe Williams, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2013-11-26
It's simple and well-told, although nothing about it is breathtakingly original.
James Berardinelli, ReelViews, 2013-11-25
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.
Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor, 2013-11-22
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.
Andrew O'Hehir, Salon.com, 2013-11-22