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“Philomena” is a tearjerker of rare honesty and craft. The movie is based closely on the story of Philomena Lee (Judi Dench), who in her 70s decided she wanted to find the illegitimate son the Catholic Church took from her and sold in 1950s Ireland. She contacted journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan, who co-wrote and co-produced), and the unlikely pair of elitist reporter and plainspoken nurse embarked on a long, strange journey to the truth.
The movie steers clear of sentimentality at every turn: What’s most shocking about Philomena is her ordinariness, and what’s ultimately most moving is her faith in that ordinariness—that the crime committed by her church and country didn’t separate her from humanity but only made her part of it.