Film pick: Philomena (NC16)

PHILOMENA (NC16) 98 minutes

Rating: 4/5

The source material for this film has all the ingredients for a tear-jerker biopic of the type found on cable television: A teenager (in later years portrayed by Judi Dench) is seduced and becomes pregnant after one night with a man in conservative Catholic Ireland. She is sent to an abbey by a shamed father and, many years later, tries to find her son who was so cruelly taken away from her.

But director Stephen Frears (TheQueen, 2006) discovers much more than just a four-hanky missing-child structure.

Nominated for four Oscars (Best Picture, Best Actress for Dench, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score for Alexandre Desplat), this heartbreaking and multi-layered account is enjoyable, thanks mainly to utterly charming performances by Dench and Steve Coogan (both above), who plays the journalist she partners to search for her son.

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