As an ex-Roman Catholic, Martin voices an issue many can relate to – how the church shames people for having sex. “Why would God bestow on us a sexual desire that he then wants us to resist?” He can’t understand why Philomena would protect the very nuns who shamed the unwed mothers into indentured servitude and then sold off their babies. But Philomena’s faith is not limited to a flawed institution; it is built on God’s forgiveness.
Director Stephen Frears takes us on an “odd couple” road trip, steering clear of sappy MOW (Movie of the Week) pitfalls. Comic moments are accentuated by exaggerating their differences: Philomena’s small town naivety in contrast to Martin’s world-weary cynicism. Much of the humor comes from Philomena taking everything Martin says literally. When he politely asks her how she is, she goes on …and on…about her hip replacement. She is portrayed as a sort of "everymom." In the end, she doesn't want the story published because she is ashamed. While Martin finally understands the importance of sharing this “everymom” story - to help other mothers whose children were given up for adoption.