To start with, two bits of advice: if you like grownup, realistic character drama, by all means, see Philomena. And if you have a hearing problem like mine, ask to borrow a pair of earphones the theater has that will enable you to adjust the sound to the volume you need. Because a lot of the dialogue is murmured or even whispered, very confidential, and what I could hear of it convinced me that I wished I could hear it all.
The situation looks hazardously emotional: Judi Dench is looking for the son that was taken away from her decades ago, and Steve Coogan, who co-wrote the movie as well as co-stars in it, is a cynical writer who is helping and learning life lessons whether he wants to or not.
But Dench is a tough old lady who has lived with her loss for a long time and does not fall into tears easily, and she has some lessons of her own to learn.
Coogan's editor wants a good, printable story with a happy ending, but Coogan wants something real, and from time to time wonders whether this story can properly be printed at all. In fact, at least once Dench wonders whether the truth is worth what it looks as if it is going to cost.
Not everything she finds out is what she wanted to find out, so don't assume at any point that you can guess what the ending will be. There are a lot of surprises, all perfectly credible but none predictable. At times, Philomena is almost a mystery story, though the emphasis is always on the relationships and evelopment of the two protagonists.
An emotionally engaging story without melodrama or sentimentality, extremely well written and acted, with mystery and surprises-- Philomena has rare things to offer.