Steve Coogan has long been a bruiser. But lately he’s become a crusader. Watch him go into battle on Question Time  or Newsnight , or at the Leveson inquiry , or in the papers , and the figure he cuts is not light entertainer but lay preacher – a fireball with bristles, angry and unabashed.
And just as his stomach for action has strengthened, so the tone of his work has changed. A few years ago he optioned a biography of Soho mogul Paul Raymond, which became The Look of Love – whose clear message was that we mustn’t mistake free love for moral laxity, nor measure a man’s nobility in threesomes alone. Even Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa  was a cautionary tale about insufficient regulation of media conglomerates.
These twin indignations – sexual hypocrisy and dodgy journalism – come together with a thunderclap in his new film, Philomena . It’s another adaptation, this time of a book by the BBC foreign correspondent turned spin doctorMartin Sixsmith , who helped a retired Irish nurse track down her son, who had been sold for adoption by nuns 50 years before.
Judi Dench and Stephen Frears talk about the film Link to video: Philomena star Judi Dench: ‘We had a great responsibility to this story’ 
It’s significant that Coogan first learned of the case through a first-person article by Sixsmith , accompanied by a larky snap of author and subject grinning on a bench. For it’s this relationship that he and co-writer Jeff Pope shift centre stage, moving much of Sixsmith’s text to flashback and performing some heavy narrative massage on the investigation itself. It’s a stroke of genius. On the page, The Lost Child of Philomena Lee  is a grand sad saga. On screen, Philomena is reborn as an odd couple road trip as the Oxbridge snit and gentle pensioner rattle round Ireland and America, through red tape and over dead ends in search of the truth.
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