Philomena stars Judi Dench as Philomena Lee in the movie adaptation of Martin Sixsmith's 2009 novel The Lost Children of Philomena Lee. Co-starring Steve Coogan as Sixsmith, the film is an emotionally moving and shocking true story that follows Sixsmith's journey to help find Philomena's lost children. Handled masterfully by The Queen director Stephen Frears, the film has been universally praised for its sensitive tone and lighthearted comic relief, with the performances from the two stars also being singled out for wide praise.

Dench and Coogan give an acting masterclass in Philomena

Having just been sacked from his job as a government spin doctor, Sixsmith is sent by his editor to do a "human interest story," an idea he at first resents, until he comes across the elderly Philomena Lee. We and Sixsmith soon discover that Lee was sent to a Catholic home for unmarried mothers in the 1950's, where she gave birth to her son, who she was forced to give up for adoption by the zealous nuns running the home.

Fifty years of searching for her son has culminated in no success, until Martin ends up taking her to America to find the truth about her son, in what is a heart wrenching story celebrating the lengths of human love, loss and life.

The film has so far received almost unanimous praise from critics, with only a few minor blips on the radar from some whose heartstrings were left un-tugged by the emotional tale.

The top critics were ach taken away by the story though and were left in awe of Dench and Coogan, who produced an uncharacteristically dramatic performance, and marvelled at how delicately Frears handled the film. Directed with "his usual unfussy, unpretentious manner," The List's James Mottram states that Frears allows "the actors explore the scenes to the max," to produce a film that leaves a "powerful" impression.

Check out the Philomena trailer

Read our review of Philomena

"A terrific, sophisticated comedy that tackles serious issues with a lightness of touch and a spirit of steel, Philomena is the British film to beat come BAFTA time," said Empire critic Damon Wise. The film is also praised as being like a "definition of good British cinema" by Nigel Andrews of the Financial Times and although the interest in the film is largely seeded in the British Isles, the film has garnered healthy appraisal from film buffs across the pond too.

"We prepared ourselves for an emotional explosion-not for physical violence, but for that of a bursting heart-and yet, when the time came, that is not what happened. Frears put the pin back in the grenade, as it were," a moved Anthony Lane of The New Yorker wrote in his review, his sentiment mirrored by many others.

Co-written by Coogan, alongside Jeff Pope, Philomena is out in cinemas on 1 November in the UK and on 27 November in the US.

Judi Dench Steve Coogan
The film is out now in the UK