THE LOST KING is about so much more than the remarkable recovery of the lost remains of King Richard III after over 500 years. It is really the true story of Philippa Langley, played by the always perfect Sally Hawkins, and her passion, persistence and relentless quest to have Richard III restored to his rightful place in the British monarchy.
An amateur historian, Langley, the mother of two boys, becomes obsessed with the king after attending a performance of Shakespeare’s play “Richard III”, in which the title role is performed by Harry Lloyd. As she expands her research of Richard III, Lloyd as the king begins appearing to her as an apparition.
Serving more as a coach than a guide, Richard III stays mostly quiet, but his presence reassures Philippa and provides encouragement. Her former husband, John (Steve Coogan), is initially less supportive, but does come around when she proves she’s seriously onto something. And Philippa truly needs John’s help as she suffers from myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), also known as chronic fatigue syndrome.
Despite all this, she convinces renowned archeologist, Richard Buckley (Mark Addy), and the University of Leicester that Richard III’s remains lie under the Leicester City Council Social Services parking lot. And after a great deal of consternation and haranguing on the part of the university, Philippa wins out only to have the academics take credit for her discovery.
Directed by Stephen Frears, with a screenplay by Coogan and Jeff Pope, the same team responsible for the 2013 Oscar-nominated PHILOMENA, THE LOST KING starts off a tad slowly, but picks up when Philippa starts sneaking around to do her research. The usage of Lloyd as the apparition adds another layer to the story --- it’s a stroke of genius, especially since he rarely speaks.
Hawkins is such a versatile actor and portraying Philippa is ideal for her. This brilliant woman is rebuffed at every turn, but she never gives up and this type of role is Hawkins’ specialty. From MAUDIE (2016), one of the best --- and her best --- movies ever --- to THE SHAPE OF WATER, Hawkins’ ability to get inside her characters is astonishing. Philippa is no exception. She is simply amazing.
THE LOST KING is very inspiring. The tenacious battle of one woman to find a much-maligned monarch and set the record straight is incredible. We should all be so driven.
Opinion: Mild See It Now!
It’s a pretty safe bet that most American moviegoers have no knowledge of the story about one of Britain’s most controversial kings, Richard III, who ruled in the late 15th century. And I would venture to say most don’t care.
For over 500 years the location of Richard III’s remains --- he was killed in battle at age 32 --- was unknown. But in 2012 a historian named Philippa Langley organized a search for his corpse initiated by her friendly group of fellow amateur historians. The University of Leicester and the Leicester City Council, although highly doubtful, agreed to the archeological dig in a parking lot of what was formerly the Grey Friars Priory. This story is the focus of THE LOST KING.
Who better to play the role of Philippa, the woman obsessed with finding the remains and ensuring that Richard III was given a proper place in the British monarchy, than Sally Hawkins? And who better to direct this movie than Stephen Frears who gave us the wonderful 2013 film PHILOMENA? In fact, THE LOST KING co-stars Steve Coogan, who co-wrote this script with Jeff Pope, and reunites all three who teamed on PHILOMENA.
After a rather plodding beginning, THE LOST KING takes off once Philippa manages to get the funding to begin the dig in the parking lot. It’s a fascinating story from this point on. Politics rears its ugly head as officials from the University of Leicester try to usurp virtually all the credit for this venture. But Philippa will not be denied.
Hawkins is at her usual best in this film. Her performance is a reminder to all about the strength of a determined woman to stand up to men in positions of power. Coogan plays John Langley, the initially skeptical ex-husband who, in addition to entertaining their two sons, eventually becomes a pillar of support for Philippa. It’s an unusually dramatic turn for Coogan who is widely known for his humor. Harry Lloyd plays the king on stage in the Richard III play Philippa attends, and he is also the vision she interacts with for much of the film.
From the moment Philippa stands upon a large “R” in the parking lot pavement we are hooked. Told that it represents a ”reserved” parking spot, she, of course, is convinced it’s a sign that Richard III’s remains are below and must be exhumed. Because THE LOST KING is based on a true story the film deserves our attention. After all, the concept that a wrong should be made right after 500 years is pretty amazing.
Opinion: See It Now!