I now see why Judi Dench was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of Philomena. Dench’s face is so expressive and she acts effortlessly. Her performance is gritty and touching. As an Irish teen, Philomena met and fell in love with a terrific boy. Unfortunately back in the 1950s, an unwanted pregnancy brought shame to a family and she was shipped off to the Magdelene nuns. There she worked in the laundry, and her baby – a boy named Anthony was born. This story is told in flashback, as an elderly Philomena keeps thinking about the son she gave up and she enlists her daughter to help find him.
Meanwhile, a journalist played by Stephen Coogan, loses his job with the BBC in disgrace. Now he needs a project and circumstances bring him and Philomena together. He’s rather snobby and even annoyed that he’s stuck with this needle in a haystack search. But slowly he comes around and sees that the nuns were essentially selling babies to Americans. With his research and connections, they travel to America to follow a trail from the convent to an adoptive home. When Judi Dench says, “Oh Martin…” you just know she’s going to put him in his place. Indeed, this hardened journalist grows immensely in Philomena’s company. For her, she learns the fate of her son and you will appreciate her years of love, anguish, and resolution.