Judi Dench plays Philomena, in a compelling drama about faith and love.

Judi Dench plays Philomena, in a compelling drama about faith and love.

“Philomena,” a powerful human drama starring Judi Dench and Steven Coogan, has had the misfortune of opening the same weekend as “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” It’s a far more powerful film, even if it lacks the kitsch and special effects of its rival.

The movie focuses on Philomena Lee, who gave birth to a son in Ireland out of wedlock as a teen. She was forced to give him up for adoption because of the country’s strict adherence to Catholic doctrine.

Some 50 years later, she encounters journalist Martin Sixsmith, played by Coogan, who wants to help her track down her son, even if he’s reluctantly recruited for the effort by an over-weening editor.

Although the search is compelling enough as a story line, the movie explores the Catholic Church’s controversial policy of selling children for adoption. In many cases, the children are wrenched from their unwed mothers under the pretext that they committed the holy sin of fornication.

It also raises questions about the conflict between faith, love and duty.

Philomena actually raises her son until the age 3, working as an indentured laundry woman at the convent in Roscrea, an old market town in County Tipperary, Ireland.

Her son, Michael, and another child, a girl named Mary, are taken together when the adoptive parents discover that the two are inseparable.

The search begins at the convent, and ultimately ends at the convent.

Martin and Philomena are misled by the nuns, but learn from one of the townsfolk that the church had been involved in baby-selling. Most of the children were sent to adoptive parents in the United States.

Because of Sixsmith’s previous work as a political adviser in Britain, he has contacts in the United States that help him pick up the trail. They soon find out what happened to the child and how their paths lead back to the convent.

The British film was screened in the main competition at the 70th Venice International Film Festival and won Best screenplay for writers Coogan and Jeff Pope

It also competed in the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival and was awarded the People’s Choice Award Runner-Up prize.

The film has been critically acclaimed. It scored a 90 percent rating on RottenTomatoes, which tracks movie reviews, based on the opinion of 82 critics.

“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,” wrote New York Times critic Stephen Holden.

While “Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” is sure to garner most of the publicity and box office receipts this weekend, “Philomena,” in its own quiet way, outscores it for human drama on almost every count.

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