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This image released by The Weinstein Company shows Judi Dench, left, and Steve Coogan in a scene from "Philomena." The British comic and Oscar-winning actress co-star in the film opening Friday, Nov. 22, 2013, which explores the benefits and costs of faith through the true story of Philomena Lee. (AP Photo/The Weinstein Company, Alex Bailey)
Movie review: Focus is on characters in charming ‘Philomena’

First Published Nov 26 2013 04:05 pm • Last Updated Nov 26 2013 07:45 pm

Dame Judi Dench gives a warm and compelling performance in "Philomena," a fact-based drama of maternal love and eternal regrets.

Dench plays Philomena Lee, a retired Irish nurse seeking her son, given up for adoption 50 years earlier by the nuns who put her in virtual servitude and labeled her sinful for having sex out of wedlock. Philomena is aided in this search by Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), a jaded former BBC journalist recently ousted from a press secretary job in the Blair administration.

At a glance



Opens Wednesday, Nov. 27, at area theaters; rated PG-13 for some strong language, thematic elements and sexual references; 98 minutes.

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The upper-crusty Martin looks down on Philomena’s commoner tastes — romance novels and "Big Momma’s House," for example — but the two bond as they visit America to uncover the truth about her long-lost son.

Director Stephen Frears ("The Queen") unfussily keeps the focus on Philomena and Martin’s sweet-and-sour banter, while the script (by Coogan and Jeff Pope, adapting Sixsmith’s book on the case) makes some pointed jabs at the Catholic Church before reverting to a comfortably sentimental tone.

movies@sltrib.com; www.sltrib.com/entertainment

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