A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Guilt will devour you if you let it. Instead, consider forgiving yourself, which can lead you to forgive others who have wronged you. Also, persistence pays off. And there is always an option for a second (or third) act in life.
Positive Role Models
Philomena is an interesting lead, harboring a secret she finds shameful but still giving, honest, inquisitive, adventurous, and, important considering the situation, brave. Martin may be more cagey and cynical, but in the end, he acts out of a generosity in spirit.
Violence & Scariness
Some scenes of a teenager being held down brusquely while giving birth, spoken to by nuns who are ostensibly helping her with little compassion.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
References to a girl meeting a boy at a fair and having sex, but we see nothing more than kissing in flashbacks. A brief discussion about female genitals, bisexuality, and homosexuality.
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Some choice words, including "s--t" and "f--k," though they're used rarely.
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Products & Purchases
A Sony Vaio is prominently displayed in one scene, a Guinness in another. Also, a discussion about BMW cars (the logo is also visible) as well as a Mazda.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Fairly frequent drinking, usually beer but also hard liquor, in pubs and parties.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Philomena is a moving, gracefully filmed drama that's somewhat teen-friendly, though younger teens may find the subjects -- teen pregnancy resulting in a traumatic stay at a nunnery, deep religious guilt, death from AIDS, abandonment, and guilt -- quite heavy. Expect some infrequent swearing, including one "f--k." To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.