Rating: 12A Cast: Sally Hawkins, Steve Coogan, Harry Lloyd, Mark Addy and James Fleet. Directed by Stephen Frears. Written by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope. Length: 108mins.
In The Lost King, Sally Hawkins’s plays amateur historian-sleuth Philippa Langley who gets to butt heads with the archaeological establishment as she pursues her dream to find the mortal remains of King Richard III, as story well known to many and not too long ago…
When Philippa reads a biography of Richard III that highlights the disconnect between his reputation and his “true” self, she resolves to set the record straight. So, after a couple of pub meetings with fellow Richard III fans, she’s banging on the doors of the establishment, seeking funding to dig up Richard’s bones, which she has become convinced lie under a car park in Leicester.
The Lost King is an okay film – its plot is its focus and while based on true events it’s really about shining the light on a part of British history, and more importantly brings attention to Phillipa Langley and what she achieved while others took (partial) credit for her work.
It lacks interesting characters which is fine due to the ‘point’ of the film, but I felt like the film makers were aware of this and pushed a bit too hard on some of the choices around the character of Phillipa. Obviously, I don’t know her – I hadn’t actually heard of her until watching this film, so I may be wrong, but it felt like the focal character was a woman who struggled with ME, had perhaps not been taken too seriously throughout her life but had the grit and determination to research and fight for her ultimate goals trusting her gut instinct, even when no one else was interested. While elements of this came across, the character of Phillipa was painted in a very feeble way. She came across as a bit weak, naive and the choice to include an imaginary King Richard who appears at various points throughout the film suggested mental illness to some degree, and yet this was never addressed and so I can only assume that this was a creative choice to try to add an extra ‘something’ to the film. It didn’t work in my opinion, it distracted from Phillipa’s hard work, made it a little cartoonish and didn’t really serve a purpose.
The Lost King is filled with a top billed cast and I can’t fault the work that they did, unfortunately what didn’t work seemed to filter down from creative choices which is a shame because the target audience for a film like this would, in my opinion, have been equally happy with a basic telling of the story without embellishments or imaginary Kings.
It’s important to recognise that with all retellings, or ‘dramatisations’ of true events there are always two sides to a story and one side will often be painted as the villain while the other a hero. As far as I can tell, real life Langley has said that she was indeed “sidelined and marginalised” by the academics, but representatives of the University have accused The Lost King of creating “an artificial narrative of a sexist, male-dominated university [by] removing all the key female academic leads”, with real life Buckley also complaining that “there is no truth to our department being under threat of closure or my job being on the line” and describes these plot points as “just nonsense”. I think the characters probably need to be taken with a pinch of salt, but focus should be on the telling of Ms Langley’s story and the incredible discovery that was made because of it.
The Lost King is an easy and relatively interesting watch with small splashes of humour throughout. It’s not going to impact anyones life in a big way but is a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours, if you enjoy a true story without high drama then this is probably for you.