The Lost King, 2022.
Directed by Stephen Frears.
Starring Sally Hawkins, Steve Coogan, Harry Lloyd, Mark Addy, James Fleet, Lee Ingleby, Amanda Abbington, Lewis Macleod, Alison Peebles, Jenny Douglas, Helen Katamba, Shonagh Price, Benjamin Scanlan, Adam Robb, Robert Jack, Sarah MacGillivray, John-Paul Hurley, James Rottger, David Ireland, Bruce Fummey, Kern Falconer, Harvey Reid, Annie Griffin, Simon Donaldson, Alasdair Hankinson, Ian Dunn, and Phoebe Pryce.
An amateur historian defies the stodgy academic establishment in her efforts to find King Richard III’s remains, which were lost for over 500 years.
There is an undeniably fascinating true story at the center of Stephen Frears’ The Lost King, which unfortunately takes a confounding tonal approach resulting in primarily flat storytelling execution. The film stars Sally Hawkins (truly deserving of a better script, during the most she can be here with body language) as Philippa Langley, a Leicester-based marketer suffering from chronic fatigue. She also has two young boys but still lives and maintains a healthy connection with her ex-husband John (Steve Coogan, one of the film’s co-writers, working alongside Jeff Pope).
One night she decides to take a child to see a performance of William Shakespeare’s Richard III, which she ultimately writes off as a heap of slander; the narrative purports that he was a hunchback usurper that murdered children. Considering that Philippa also feels misunderstood, it’s logical that she would find some frustration in this depiction of King Richard III, especially since she’s an intelligent woman capable of fighting the defamation legacy of this heralded play with facts and information suggesting otherwise. Not to mention, characters make light of her condition while vilifying uncontrollable deformities such as hunchbacks (whether it was true or not).
These encounters encourage Philippa to join a King Richard III society filled with quirky personas (there is a very lighthearted approach to this material), compiling data proving Shakespeare wrong. Philippa also takes this a step further and seeks funding to dig into a parking lot where she believes King Richard III’s remains lie. And there is potential for a solid thematic message in here about who dictates history and how it’s passed down from generation to generation, although The Lost King never gets around to that.
Weirdly, Phillipa also begins hallucinating and imagining interactions with King Richard III by way of the actor that embodied him on stage (Harry Lloyd). Most likely, this is a side effect of her chronic fatigue and an interesting idea that makes for appropriately awkward interactions, but the script never finds a way to break through into anything more. The attempts at humor are cringe, making Philippa look crazy, and there is also no concern with diving into how her condition affects day-to-day life.
Nevertheless, Phillipa also connects with a group of historians backing her efforts to uncover the remains, all while John flip-flops on what to make of the situation. No one important believes that Phillipa’s intuition could be correct until some bones are suddenly found. At that point, The Lost King transitions into a blunt look at men stealing the glory from women after they had already been denying and pushing back against her every thought and request.
Aside from the details of the true story (and even that appears to have been embellished greatly without knowing how to make a compelling character study out of Phillipa), The Lost King is an unsubtle snooze that has the right idea by choosing to focus on Phillipa but completely fails at fleshing the character out into something substantial. The whole film flounders around, lost and confused.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com