At the time she had been unwed in Ireland and nuns in the Roman Catholic Church took her in to give birth, only to sell her son for 1000 pounds to an American upper middle class family.
No surprise, the Catholic Church and the nuns come off looking like the lowest of the low. But Philomenia the mother forgives them. And, it just may be, she also finally forgives herself.
That's only part of the tale. The other part is about the evolution of the cynical journalist. By helping her locate the son, who had been a bigwig lawyer in GOP Administrations, he puts together his own career comeback. The story is amazing in that the son died of AIDS. But before he did, he traveled back to Ireland to try to find out about his birth mother. The nuns clammed up, not giving him any information.
Until blue-collar Philomena and he join forces, he had been an out of work former press officer for the British government. He was the scapegoat. The public bought the story.
No Mr. Sunshine to begin with, he was certainly hard edged after losing his job and being kicked around in the media. But before being a spin doctor, he had been a BBC journalist. He returns to his roots. This simple soul Philomenia who loves "C" grade romantic fiction awakens in him some values. Maybe they were there before. Maybe they represent new growth. He is even willing to kill the story to protect her. But she has also grown. She wants the story told.
An interesting fact comes out that the adoptive parents were not out of Norman Rockwell. The father, a doctor, was harsh. The mother couldn't bridge that gap. Although they gave the child more than the birth mother could in terms of advantages like education, the family environment turned out to be dysfunctional.