Philomena Lee's son was taken away from her, but she never traveled to the U.S. with Sixsmith. (The Washington Post)

A quick look at this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Picture…

Synopsis: A cynical journalist (Steve Coogan) helps an Irish woman (Judi Dench) search for the son she was forced to give up as an unwed teenager in this fact based drama.

Total nominations: 4 (Picture, Actress, Original Screenplay, Adapted Score)

Directed by: Stephen Frears

Starring: Judi Dench (nominated for Best Actress; seventh nomination), Steve Coogan (nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay; first nomination)


Judi Dench, left and Steve Coogan in a scene from “Philomena.” (Alex Bailey

Why it should win: The personal story at the heart of “Philomena” crystalizes the larger issue of abuse of power in the Catholic church. And Oscar loves issue-oriented films.

Why it won’t win: Though “Philomena” jabs an elbow in the eye of the Catholic church, its message of quiet acceptance and reconciliation may, in the end, be too subtle for a category that prefers stories about grander emotional gestures.

Ann Hornaday’s review: 3.5 stars

“At its core, this clever, wrenching, profound story underscores the tenacity of faith in the face of unfathomable cruelty.”

Box office as of Feb. 24: $32 million domestic, $82 million worldwide

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