Rated 3.0

Judi Dench plays the real-life title character in Philomena, an Irish woman still pining for her out-of-wedlock child that was shipped to America 50 years prior. However, the actual focal point is Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), a cynical ex-journalist who gloms on to Philomena's story as a potential career savior. The closer they get to the truth, the more he has to subtly manipulate her, which makes him feel like a big jerk. Ace in the hole it is not, but Philomena does have a TV-sized appeal that's difficult to describe without using the words “quaint” and “tidy.” It's never clear why Martin is the star of Philomena, except that Coogan's sharp tongue is more entertaining than Dench's relentless homily spewing. Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liaisons, The Grifters, Dirty Pretty Things) directs with the competent efficiency of a veteran hired hand, which is depressing.