‘Judi Dench makes Philomena unmissable’

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Film review by Helena Kealey

Philomena is the story of a poor Irishwoman, Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) and an irksome BBC correspondent/ex-spin doctor Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) searching together for Philomena’s lost child, stolen and sold by Irish Catholic nuns in 1955.

The film begins with Sixsmith stewing in the injustice of having been spat out of the Blair administration, until he is persuaded to embark on a hunt for Philomena’s missing child across cover-ups and continents.

Despite having written it, Steve Coogan allows himself to be outshone by the magnificent Judi Dench, who makes this film unmissable as events turn Philomena from a clueless, clucking bat into a magnificent, courageous heroine.

The film itself is a terrible, churning story of cruelty, love and wisdom that is whisked quickly past the realms of boo-hoo human interest story into the grotesque tragedy of the behaviour of Catholic nuns in the 1950s and ’60s.

So turn up with all the scepticism you want. But turn up.