- Colin Fraser
THE LOST KING
THREE STARS History enthusiast Philippa Langley has a 'feeling' she knows where the remains of King Richard III are buried.
DRAMA UK English #THELOSTKING
Starring Sally Hawkin, Steve Coogan
Monarchial study it seems, is split in two: academia and enthusiasts, the former having no truck with the latter. So when a purposeful woman joins the latter and begins instructing the former, the stage is set for a battle of wills. Their common interest is locating the body of Richard III, the Shakespearian villain and last royal to die on a battlefield. Piecing together shards of information, Philippa Langley (Sally Hawkins) has a ‘feeling’ about where the King’s remains lie - under a carpark in Leeds. Not to be upstaged (and certainly not by a woman with ‘feelings’), the University of Leicester takes her under their wing, mostly so they can control the story and, if she’s right, take the credit.
This minor film by award-winning Stephen Frears (DANGEROUS LIAISONS and more recently, PHILOMENA) charts the recent and incredibly true story of Langley’s discovery. It succeeds as a modest account, one that matches the demeanour of its central character. Yet the film as a whole struggles to keep us fully engaged. Despite knowing how the story lands, a problem many before have overcome (APOLLO 13 for instance), it doesn’t really deliver on the will-they-won’t-they potential that’s the heart of the film, nor the emotional surge that comes with it.
But for all that, THE LOST KING is warm and generous in its telling, with Hawkins central to that spirit. She’s as much at home as an anxious, bookish, history-hunter as she is in mega-budget productions such as THE SHAPE OF WATER, and holds our interest throughout. Her relationship with the ghost of King Richard (a twinkle-eyed Harry Lloyd) is playful and engaging, as is that with her family and ex-husband (played by screen-writer Steve Coogan). The film's heat, when it arrives, comes from Philippa's fiery relationship with the University (one they've since distanced themselves from), a dynamic Hawkins makes all her own.
For a film that insists Richard deserved better than literature and historians allowed, it’s ironic that his discovery deserved better than this film achieved. While not as scintillating as you'd hope for, THE LOST KING is still worthwhile entertainment that might also have you reach for the history books.