© X Verleih/Warner Bros.

The Lost King
U.K. 2022

Opening 5 Oct 2023

Directed by: Stephen Frears
Writing credits: Philippa Langley, Michael Jones, Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope
Principal actors: Sally Hawkins, Shonagh Price, Helen Katamba, Lewis Macleod, Jenny Douglas

Philippa Langley (Hawkins) lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she is frustrated at work and struggling with a chronic illness while raising two sons and navigating her relationship with her ex-husband (Coogan). When she attends a production of Shakespeare’s play Richard III at her son’s new school, Philippa is struck by the pain and anguish of the title character, a short-lived 15th-century English king whose rotten reputation has come down through history due to Shakespeare painting him as a murderous and scheming villain. Philippa is moved by the actor’s performance of Richard (Lloyd) and becomes determined to learn more about his life: Was he really a hunchback? Did he order the murder of his two nephews? Where was he buried? Could she find his final resting place and restore his reputation? She joins a local group of Richard III devotees who inspire her to investigate and perhaps correct the historical record.

Based on a true story—and a book written by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones,The King's Grave: The Search for Richard III—it is the story about a woman on a quest. And like any quest narrative, Philippa faces plenty of obstacles, in this case, financial and bureaucratic hurdles, encountering red tape and resistance from academic, archeological, civic, and historical factions. (She also has a sidekick of sorts, as she imagines that she regularly sees Richard’s ghost as embodied by the young actor she saw playing him on stage.) There’s also plenty of misogyny and a heavy dose of dismissing Philippa as an “amateur”, a woman in over her head, who lacks the expertise of the “real” professionals. Director Stephen Frears has made an entertaining film that effectively conveys Philippa’s (tempered) outrage at facing these hurdles as well as her persistence. The Lost King is a quiet but forceful film, one that shows how one person’s determination can truly affect change—and how quickly others will grab the credit (a storyline familiar to women throughout history). (Diana Schnelle)

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