HOLLYWOOD—Films based on true stories tend to tug at the heart more than those that are original pieces of work. The movie “Philomena” is based on the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee that chronicles the story of Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) who for over 50 years searched for her son.

Watching the picture, I found myself taking a journey with the two primary players Philomena (Dench) and journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan). In essence, she is searching for something dear to her, while Martin searches for a new endeavor in his career, and in the midst of this journey together these two characters develop a remarkable bond.

Our title character was forced to give up her son for adoption decades ago because she was not married, while living in Ireland. With any journey, it always starts where it first begins, which finds Philomena and Martin heading back to the covenant where her son was adopted from.  Through investigative digging, the audience discovers a bit of a conspiracy behind the situation.  So what starts off as a bit light-hearted becomes more of a suspense ride, as the spectator we want to know “Why?”

Dench delivers a powerful performance that is a highlight for the esteemed actress.  She brings fear, happiness, despair, sadness, grief and horror to such a complex character that is not an easy task for most actresses to do. Coogan is also a revelation as a journalist conflicted with his viewpoints. Time and time again, we hear about journalists who shy away from human interest stories, out of the fear that its not newsworthy, but these are stories that in all actuality deliver more of an impact than any hard news or political scandal piece we see time and time in the media outlet.

There are a few religious overtones in the picture that could potentially annoy some viewers who may see the picture as being a bit preachy, but that is not its intention. The movie examines the issue of adoption and how things sometimes fall through the cracks, some intentional, others not so much.  Its not all gloom and doom as some would expect, as “Philomena” does a wonderful job at balancing the narrative between characters.

For those entering the theater, with a preconceived notion of what the movie may be about, disregard those expectations. It’s important to enter the theater with an open-mind as it better prepares the viewer for what is to come. This picture has a way of toying with your emotions in a way that leaves you at a lost for words, you expect one thing, but later discover something else. I wouldn’t necessary call them twists, more so surprises that were not expected, but powerful ones to say the least.

Actress Judi Dench delivers a performance unlike any other, while I do see the actress garnering a Oscar nomination for Best Actress, she may face stiff competition from other actresses with films that are buzzing all over the box-office with audiences. The same goes for Coogan in a supporting role that has been overlooked at this point in the awards season.  “Philomena” weaves a story that is surprising in more ways than one can imagine.