Parents' Guide to

Philomena

By S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Smart, wrenching, deeply moving drama fine for older teens.

Movie PG-13 2013 98 minutes
Philomena Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 12+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 12+

Thoughtful approach to a difficult subject

Before my wife and I saw this, I thought it'd be a cute, reasonably good movie (judging mostly by the poster showing Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in character), but after seeing it, thought it could have been the best picture of 2013. It does take on a shameful chapter in Ireland's history, but it does so in a way that's entertaining, yet realistic. The characters are written in a complex way, and Dench and Coogan bring vitality and depth to Philomena and journalist Martin Sixsmith. Besides entertaining kids 12 and up, it's a great way to open up discussion on the obvious subject of coerced adoptions, but also journalism and politics.
age 12+

Wonderful film.

I am not sure why I could not give this movie 5 stars - would have. Sweetly funny, thought provoking. An opening to discuss personal and religious values.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (2 ):
Kids say (8 ):

Philomena is terrific. A winding, emotionally grueling and eloquently told tale of one woman's immense heartbreak, it approaches its delicate subject matter with the boldness of a soldier but the grace of a dancer, balancing the harshness with so much hope for humanity. Judi Dench is to thank for such a nuanced, forthright performance as the titular lead. She stays away from the maudlin by gifting her nervous Philomena with authentic (and developing) courage, a journey we totally buy because Dench's depiction doesn't doesn't condescend nor rely on shorthand. Steve Coogan keeps his signature sarcasm, which still exists here, in check, allowing his Martin to be jaded but not cruel. And when he comes dangerously close to it, he pulls himself back, as decent men do. (He also appears, as Martin, to be continually surprised by Philomena, a subtle but complex discovery to emote, but he does it well.) Together, they share a believable rapport that grows as the film unfolds.

Director Stephen Frears uses flashbacks to tell Philomena's story, and it's deliberate and disciplined enough so as not to annoy. (Flashbacks can be dicey, as many movies prove.) The wrap-up feels ever so slightly rushed, but nothing that distracts. Taking on a subject that may make its villains one-dimensional is tricky, and at times, the villainous nuns here careen dangerously close to caricature, but Frears pulls it off. And beautifully.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: November 22, 2013
  • On DVD or streaming: April 15, 2014
  • Cast: Judi Dench , Steve Coogan
  • Director: Stephen Frears
  • Inclusion Information: Female actors
  • Studio: BBC
  • Genre: Drama
  • Topics: Friendship , History
  • Run time: 98 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG-13
  • MPAA explanation: some strong language, thematic elements and sexual references
  • Last updated: August 31, 2023

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