Home The Lost King (Subtitled)

The Lost King (Subtitled) (12A)

Cast: James Fleet, Steve Coogan, Lee Ingleby, Harry Lloyd, Mark Addy, Sally Hawkins
Genre: Comedy
Author(s): Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope
Director: Stephen Frears
Release Date: 07/10/2022
Running Time: 108mins
Country: UK
Year: 2022

Amateur historian Philippa Langley is determined to discover the remains of King Richard III - a historical treasure thought lost for over 500 years. She embarks on a quest for answers that alienates her from family and friends. The country's most eminent academics meet Philippa's assertions with scepticism until she orchestrates a search for the lost monarch in 2012 beneath a car park in Leicester.


LondonNet Film Review

The Lost King (12A) Film Review from LondonNet

One woman’s search for the truth unearths a historical treasure thought lost for more than 500 years in director Stephen Frears’s crowd-pleasing drama comedy. Based on a script co-written by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, The Lost King fictionalises headline-grabbing events from 2012 when the remains of Richard III were discovered beneath a car park in Leicester – an archaeological miracle spearheaded by amateur historian Philippa Langley. From the opening title card – “Based on a true story. Her story” – Frears’s picture makes abundantly clear where its sympathies lie, portraying Philippa as a quietly spoken divorcee who overcomes scepticism from the academic community to restore Richard III’s place in royal history…

Unlike the team from University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS), who were commissioned to dig, The Lost King operates predominantly at surface level, venerating Philippa at every feelgood turn and engineering some classic on-screen villainy in the form of the university’s director of corporate affairs and planning Richard Taylor (Lee Ingleby). Take plentiful pinches of salt as Coogan and Pope rewrite history.

One undeniable fact is a bravura central performance from Sally Hawkins as the driving force behind the exhumation. Her body visibly thrums to convey Philippa’s daily battle with ME and Hawkins emotionally anchors the script’s attempts at magical realism in scenes of Philippa conversing with an apparition of the king.

In 2012, Philippa (Hawkins) is based in Edinburgh, amicably sharing custody of her two sons (Adam Robb, Benjamin Scanlan) with ex-husband John (Steve Coogan), when a local theatre production of Richard III sows the seeds of an “unhealthy obsession” with the Plantagenet king. As someone who feels unfairly judged because of her chronic condition, Philippa nurtures an affinity to the 15th-century monarch, who is maligned as a villainous, manipulative hunchback in Shakespeare’s history play. She devours books and attends meetings of the Edinburgh branch of the Richard III Society, where she learns that the king’s mortal remains were lost to history after his defeat and death at the Battle of Bosworth Field.

A chance encounter with historian John Ashdown-Hill (James Fleet) bolsters Philippa’s resolve to pinpoint Richard III’s resting place and her research leads to a Leicester city council car park (one reserved parking place handily marks the spot with a white R). A spectre (Harry Lloyd) accompanies Philippa on her dogged quest as she establishes the Looking For Richard project and crowdfunds a small commercial dig led by Richard Buckley (Mark Addy) and the team at ULAS.

The Lost King excavates core elements of a rousing underdog story but Frears’s film lacks the emotional crescendo teased by composer Alexandre Desplat’s insistent orchestral score. Hawkins aside, performances are solid in service of the plot and Coogan pockets a couple of amusing one-liners.

– Sarah Lee


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