The events of The Lost King might be niche but the story of a woman trying to find her voice is universal.
Written by Alex Gilston / October 9, 2022
Men and Institutes taking credit for an individual’s work, usually a woman’s, is a tale as old as time. Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope’s The Lost King attempts to set the record straight for Phillipa Langley in a partially fictionalised account of the discovery of King Richard III’s remains in a car park in Leicester.
Phillipa Langley (Sally Hawkins) is a sales rep from Edinburgh, who after watching Richard III in the theatre becomes obsessed with the man himself and is convinced that she can find his remains, the whereabouts of which are unknown. The opening credits crawl ends with “Based on a true story” which is important because it is a fictitious telling of the events that led to King Richard’s exhumation, using key events as bookmarks to the rest of the story. Aside from being a feel-good British story that usually speaks to audiences well, The Lost King’s goal is to try and give the right people the credit they deserve for this major historical discovery. In fact it succeeds in doing so as Phillipa Langley, a name not many people would have connected to the discovery, gets her rightful dues.
Sally Hawkins makes it two for two on films that you could enjoy on a Sunday afternoon with your grandparents, after starring in The Phantom of the Open earlier this year. Being back in the driving seat is a breeze for Hawkins and her empathic performance as the central focus helps The Lost King exude a toasty warmth. King Richard III manifests as a vision throughout to Phillipa as the man (Harry Lloyd) she sees portraying him in a production of Shakespeare’s play. What starts off as a looming ghostly apparition soon becomes an extension of Phillips’s conscience after he begins to talk to her. The Lost King could have been told in lots of different menial ways but the addition of Harry Lloyd as King Richard connects us to Phillipa on a deeper level without it coming across as out of place or too quirky. Harry Lloyd is a hefty presence and his natural stoicism lends itself to the role, especially when he’s standing watch in his and Phillips’s first interactions.
The events of The Lost King might be niche but the story of a woman trying to find her voice is universal. Whether or not you are interested in King Richard III it should still be necessary viewing. This brand of British cinema, like The Duke and The Phantom of the Open with its feel-good nature, has solidified itself because these films are lovely to watch and even better it’s nice to see Phillipa Langley credited properly for her work.