Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Philomania

The Weinstein Company

The always-delightful Judi Dench is back on the big screen in the new flick Philomena.

In the film, the Oscar winner plays a woman searching for her son, who was taken away from her when she was a teenager 50 years ago because she wasn't married at the time. Steve Coogan plays a journalist following her on her search.

So are movie reviewers loving the critically acclaimed actress as much as they typically do? Here are what critics are saying about Philomena.

• "In Philomena, Judi Dench's portrayal of a stubborn, kindhearted Irish Catholic trying to discover what became of the toddler she was forced to give up as a teenager is so quietly moving that it feels lit from within," the New York Times' Stephen Holden writes. "A major theme of this film from [director] Stephen Frears is forgiveness. Ms. Dench's Philomena Lee glows with the radiance of someone serene in her faith despite inhumane treatment by the church. That she makes you believe her character has the capacity to forgive provides the movie with a solid moral center."

• Unsurprisingly, the New York Daily News gives Dench rave reviews, calling her "the film's backbone," but they also praise Coogan's portrayal of Martin Sixsmith. "Martin and Philomena articulate this balance literally: He questions religion, she defends it. He demands outrage, she expresses forgiveness. The movie wouldn't stand for much of anything without such an effective team to represent the equivocating," the paper writes. "The way these two talents connect—and strengthen Frears' tenuous tone—is enough to soften any cynic's heart."

• Rolling Stone echoed the NYDN. "Dench and Coogan lock horns with great humor, though director Stephen Frears (The Queen) never lets them get too warm and fuzzy," writes Peter Travers. "At its best, the film exposes a church that likes to sweep scandal under the rug and hypocritical institutions on both sides of the Atlantic that help it happen. It's Dench, showing how faith and hellraising can reside in the same woman, who makes Philomena moving and memorable."

• Entertainment Weekly gives the film an A- and also calls Dench and Coogan's chemistry "undeniably great." "In the end, he manages to give her the answers she seeks and she manages to give him a heart," the mag declares after calling out Coogan's touchingly human performance in the flick.

• The Guardian's Susan Wloszczyna raves of Dench's multifaceted performance, "This might be one of her most complex portraits: a seemingly average person with an unlikely reserve of strength. Her Philomena would have every right to act the victim, considering the traumatic circumstances that caused her to be separated from her child, and the vow of silence about the matter that was forced upon her. Yet the actress slowly but surely reveals Philomena's fortitude in the face of awful truths, her immense capacity for empathy, and her sharp insight into human behavior—along with a healthy frankness about sexuality despite the best efforts of the nuns who tried to brainwash her otherwise."

• "Well-written, fascinating story and deft performances make this well worth seeing," claims USA Today, adding, "Philomena makes a winning holiday movie, embodying the ideals of what the season is truly about: forgiveness, kindness and goodwill toward one's fellow man."

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