In the Roman Catholic Church, St. Philomena, a 14-year-old girl martyred in the early church, is the patron saint of children and youth.  In Stephen Frears's tender new film, Philomena is a devout Irish Catholic woman looking for the son who was taken from her while she was the ward of an abbey run by an order of sanctimonious nuns. Judi Dench plays the latter-day Philomena with all of the grace we've come to expect from this grande dame, and Steve Coogan, who also co-wrote the screenplay, plays a scuttled and cynical BBC reporter commissioned to help her solve the mystery of her missing child. Frears is a wonderfully economical director, and he covers a lot of emotional ground in this film, which might at first appear to be a simple tale of odd fellows on a quest but is actually about the limitations of faith -- both real and imagined. Highly recommended.


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