Dench gets it just right

At 78, British actress Judi Dench has become an international treasure, playing steely, formidable characters with as much ease as cozier, more grandmotherly roles. All those qualities can be glimpsed in “Philomena,” in which Dench plays the title character, a woman who, as a pregnant teenager in 1950s Ireland, was forced to give her son up for adoption after giving birth to him in a Catholic abbey.

As the soft-spoken, slightly frumpy Philomena Lee, Dench delivers one of her most recessive, unprepossessing performances yet. Her dashing silver-haired turn as James Bond’s “M” is thoroughly banished beneath a staid crown of mousy curls. But that signature brand of Dench tungsten glints through, as Philomena embarks on a search for her now-middle-aged son and debates the tenets of her faith with the skeptical journalist chronicling her journey.

Extras on the DVD and Blu-ray (Anchor Bay, $30-$35) include commentary by co-star and co-writer Steve Coogan and co-writer Jeff Pope; a conversation with Dench; a featurette on the real Philomena Lee, and a Q&A with Coogan in which he discusses how he discovered the story, adapting it for film and casting Dench.

Washington Post


Colin Covert says: “Philomena” is smart, sensitive, but never stumbles into easy sentimentality — a human-interest story perfectly told.

Also out Tuesday: “Black Nativity,” “The Nut Job,” “Ride Along,” “Ripper Street” (Season 2), “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”