I watched this last night – the first film I've watched on an actual, physical-form DVD in ages. It was really good, with more dimensions than I would have guessed from the trailer. It’s not just a follow-up to all those nasty-nun lost children films like ‘The Magdalene Sisters’, though it is that as well.
It’s also a comment on our media, and on how toxic and corroded the people who work in it have become. Steve Coogan, who I don’t like all that much as a comedian, is absolutely brilliant in this, and manages to convey something of the contempt that he and his class feel for working people and their ‘naff’ tastes, while at the same time also showing some recognition that this isn't right or even human.
Judy Dench is of course also wonderful, and her character manages to pose some interesting questions about atheism; I am myself both an atheist and a secularist, but the dynamic between Martin Sixsmith and Philomena does make me aware that there is a ‘taste’ element to the way in which ‘educated’ people look down on the beliefs of religious people. He is angrier with the nuns, on her behalf, than she herself is angry with them. Mind you, I felt just as angry as he did.