Philomena - reviews of Stephen Frears Bafta contender
Judi Dench and Steve Coogan star in funny, profound real-life drama tipped for Baftas and Oscars
What you need to know
British drama Philomena, which opens in UK cinemas today, has been tipped by critics as "the film to beat come Bafta time". Directed by Stephen Frears (The Queen), Philomena stars Judi Dench and Steve Coogan.
It is based on the true story of journalist and former spin doctor Martin Sixsmith's attempt to help an Irish woman, Philomena Lee, contact the child she was forced to give up for adoption 50 years earlier. Steve Coogan (who co-wrote the script) stars as Sixsmith and Judi Dench is Philomena.
Philomena screened at this year's Venice Film Festival where it won Best Screenplay for Coogan and Jeff Pope's adaptation of Martin Sixsmith's non-fiction book.
What the critics like
"This is a terrific, sophisticated comedy that tackles serious issues with a lightness of touch and a spirit of steel," says Damon Wise in Empire. Funny and profound, Philomena is the British film to beat come Bafta time.
This "sidesplitting and heartbreaking" drama looks set for Bafta and Oscar acting nominations, says Kate Muir in The Times. Dench is as extraordinary as ever, while Coogan, as an actor and writer, manages the delicate balance between the absurd and the affecting.
"Dench and Coogan's characters are the quintessential odd couple," says Geoffrey McNab in The Independent. Dench brilliantly combines comedy and extreme pathos without ever lapsing into caricature and Coogan underplays beautifully, hiding his own emotions behind ironic one-liners.
What they don't like
The film is "a little complacent about its power to touch a middlebrow audience", says Siobhan Synnot in The Scotsman. Dench and Coogan are good together, but the themes are trowelled on, so that occasionally there's the sense that you have wandered into a sermon about anger and forgiveness with the opportunity for a bit of grandstanding. ·