THE LOST KING is a 2022 British drama-comedy, directed by Stephen Frears and written by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope.
It’s based on the true story of one woman’s passion and tenacious search for King Richard III’s body, and the book The King’s Grave (2013) by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones.
The Lost King stars Sally Hawkins as Philippa Langley and Steve Coogan as her ex-husband John, while Harry Lloyd portrays King Richard III and Mark Addy a university collaborator.
After being bypassed for a promotion that goes to a younger colleague, Philippa, suffering from the chronic fatigue-like myalgic encephalomyelitis, decides to quit after a fruitless confrontation with her boss.
She doesn’t inform her ex-husband John about the decision, despite having an amicable relationship based around shared custody.
Philippa takes her son to see a performance of Shakespeare’s King Richard, and after a confrontation with another school parent, she develops a passion to search for the truth. Knowing that portrayal was incorrect she reads everything she could about the King.
Philippa meets up with members of the Edinburgh King Richard III Society and decides to search for his body to set the record straight.
King Richard appears as an apparition to assist her throughout and encourages her to keep looking. This seems a bit far-fetched if based on a true story, but adds interest as creative motivation.
The real life situation was only slightly less spooky; Philippa picked the site where she believed his body lay after getting a “feeling” while standing in a carpark with an R painted on it.
Although John has a new relationship, he becomes supportive of Philippa as she turns amateur historian and travels relentlessly in her quest. They find their own relationship moves into different territory.
Sally’s Oscar-deserving portrayal of Philippa is marvellous, as she meets historians and academics and courageously rebukes their facts – King Richard was not an evil king as portrayed.
Her reaction as she stands on that vacant carpark, the old site of the Greyfriars church in Leicester, where she thinks The King’s remains may have been for the past 500 years, gives you the feeling she is right on the money.
You become ever hopeful she can resist the blockages by bureaucracy, historians and council reticence to raise the funds to do an archaeological dig at this site.
A movie worth seeing and one of the top five this summer.
By PAULA HOLLAND