Mother and Child Reunion

Philomena” received wild applause, after moving much of the audience to tears, when it debuted this summer at the Venice Film Festival, yet early reviews describe the movie as subtle and understated. Directed by Stephen Frears (“The Queen”) and starring Judi Dench in the title role, it tells the fact-based tale of Philomena Lee, an aging woman who sets out to find the son taken from her a half-century ago, and Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), a journalist who agrees to help, with an eye toward turning her search into a human-interest story. Together, they’re an odd couple. Philomena sweetly clings to her faith — even though, as a teenage unwed mother, she did three years of penance in a convent, where Irish nuns forced her to give up her child for adoption. Martin, a jaded atheist, has a different view: “It’s the Catholic Church that should be going to confession — not you.” Their journey takes unpredictable turns, and there’s humor as well as drama along the way. “Philomena,” which opens in theaters on November 22, could be this year’s “The King’s Speech” — a small British film (also released by the Weinstein Company) that emerges as an unexpected holiday-season hit. — John Birmingham

Tags: family

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