The Lost King – Dir: Stephen Frears (Film Review)

The Lost King is Richard III, but he was found in 2012 thanks to the exhaustive efforts of one Philippa Langley, or so the story goes.

Starring: Sally Hawkins, Steve Coogan, Harry Lloyd

One might think that a film, described as a ‘seriocomic drama’, based on real-life event that only took place a decade or so ago would not have trouble sorting fact from fiction. But this is 2022 and as we know, there are those who place as much credence on their feelings as hard facts. Philippa’s story, as depicted here, proves that there can be grey area in the most black and white settings.

Common belief is/was that Richard III was a deformed, wicked man with a hump back who died in 1485 and whose ashes were allegedly tossed into a river.  Shakespeare’s Richard III play only served to reinforce those ‘facts’.

With that in mind, we meet Philippa Langley as played by Sally Hawkins, a mousey, middle-aged woman with a couple of kids, a failed marriage (her ex , John, is played by Steve Coogan) and a job that finds her being overlooked by younger, prettier candidates.

And she also suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME) although insists it never affects her work.

One evening she attends a performance of the Shakespeare play and she identifies with the misunderstood, misrepresented title character so much so that she reads every book available on Ricard III and joins a group of like-minded individuals who are best described as “oddballs and misfits”.

Oh, and she ‘sees’ Richard III, or his apparition, standing straight and tall and handsome.

Eventually, Phiippa becomes obsessed with  ‘re-branding’ Richard III and locating his actual final resting place.

Her struggle with being taken seriously and then being given her due credit is ultimately what this film is about.

There have been complaints and even lawsuits from those who feel unfairly represented in the film, particularly the folks at the University Of Leicester, and you are welcome to go down the rabbit hole of who said what about whom and how they responded.

I suggest you take The Lost King for what it is…a good (certainly not a great) film about a woman who simply wants to be taken seriously despite the preconceived notions of those around her based on her looks, her education, her demeanour and her place in society.

Marty Duda

The Lost King Is Screening in NZ Cinemas now.