Thursday, December 8, 2022

The Lost King - movie

The Lost King, movie directed by Stephen Frears and written by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, based on the 2013 book The King's Grave: The Search for Richard III by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones.

Produced by Pathé, Baby Cow Productions, BBC Film and Ingenious Media, and distributed by Pathé in France and Switzerland as a standalone distributor, and in the UK via Warner Bros.Pictures. The film premiered in Toronto International Film Festival on 10 September 2022, and was released in the United Kingdom on 7 October 2022.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
Media Contact (Sydney): Sue Dayes, Tracey Mair Publicity
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Maybe you are not a King Richard III fanatic, unlike the Richard III Society. “We have been working since 1924 to secure a more balanced assessment of the king and to support research into his life and times.”  If you would like to become one, you can join the nearby branch at .

But this movie is the true story, with a fascinating twist (or three) of Philippa Langley’s quest to find the grave of the Plantagenet King Richard III, (2 October 1452 – 22 August 1485) despite the accepted story that after only two years on the throne he was killed and his body thrown into the river near Leicester, after the Battle of Bosworth Field, as the Tudors took over the monarchy.

Even though, just as in Ancient Greek theatre where the audience knew the end, we know that his buried bones were found in 2012, the movie looks as though it might be a tragedy for Philippa.  Twist one is that she, like Shakespeare’s version in The Tragedy of King Richard III, is disabled – emotionally rather than physically – and has to work around and often fight against herself to keep going.  What we see as her obsession, even to the point of hallucinations, becomes her saving grace.

Twist two is that she is a woman facing a world of university men for whom strictly ‘rational’ thinking and putting down  of ‘womanly’ feelings is the norm – however wrong their conclusions are, while hers turn out to be the truth.

And the final twist is in the history, when Queen Elizabeth II – whom we take to be the natural descendant of the Tudors Henry VII, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I (on the throne when William Shakespeare’s play was published in 1597) – agreed to accept that Richard had been a legitimate king, and deserved royal honours when he was reburied in Leicester Cathedral on 26 March 2015.

So The Lost King is a dramatic mystery play, but directed – in the acting style and in the cutting – with a light touch.  Philippa is an entirely human character, as performed by Sally Hawkins, alongside Steve Coogan as John Langley, committed to her own suburban family, engagingly worrying about what she feels she has to do, and surprising herself as she finds she can deal with powerful people.  

I found myself worrying for her, surprised with her, laughing alongside her, and enormously grateful for what she achieved.  Especially for her debunking so much of the conventional denigration of Richard as King of England.  

I’m a one-time £10 Pom who was brought up by republican socialists and believed in Shakespeare.  Philippa Langley, via Sally Hawkins, and Harry Lloyd as her imaginary King Richard III, in these enjoyable performances have helped me understand that we are all human – only human – no matter our class, our abilities, and disabilities.  

It’s that warmth of feeling that makes the movie The Lost King very well worth viewing.  It opens at Dendy Canberra tomorrow – Friday 9 December 2022.

Sally Hawkins, and Harry Lloyd
in The Lost King
as Philippa Langley and her imaginary King Richard III