Combustible Celluloid
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With: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Mare Winningham, Barbara Jefford, Ruth McCabe, Peter Hermann, Sean Mahon, Anna Maxwell Martin, Michelle Fairley, Wunmi Mosaku, Amy McAllister, Charlie Murphy, Cathy Belton, Kate Fleetwood
Written by: Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope, based on a book by Martin Sixsmith
Directed by: Stephen Frears
MPAA Rating: PG-13 on appeal for some strong language, thematic elements and sexual references
Running Time: 98
Date: 11/27/2013

Philomena (2013)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Nun the Wiser

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The ever-reliable English filmmaker Stephen Frears teams up with comic actor Steve Coogan for this very nicely balanced and unexpectedly moving "true story." Coogan co-wrote the screenplay and stars as Martin Sixsmith, a cynical, out-of-work journalist who stumbles across an interesting story. As a teen, Philomena became pregnant and was forced to live and work at a convent. The nuns gave up her baby for adoption and have never allowed Philomena to know the child's name or location. Near the child's fiftieth birthday, Philomena (Judi Dench) has decided to speak to the press.

So Martin and Philomena hit the road to look for clues. Frears and Coogan don't exactly turn their story into a suspense filled potboiler; the twists and turns are rather ordinary. And the relationship between Martin and Philomena could have turned cutesy, but it remains stable and sure-footed, but still loving and respectful. In other words, this is a grown-up movie that's a little funny and a little sad. It doesn't rely on any of the established rules or tricks. It simply focuses on characters and emotions. Though the nuns in this movie don't cackle and rub their hands together, you may still get the impression that you've witnessed evil as pure as it comes.

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