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The Lost King review: Dir. Stephen Frears

In the UK, and across the world, we heard the fascinating story concerning the discovery of King Richard III, lost for over 500 years, but found underneath the tarmac of a Leicester Car Park. Equally incredible and raising the question ‘but how?!,’ The Lost King brings to life not only the story of the discovery but also of the relentless work of amateur historian, Philippa Langley, and her battle to prove her reasonings based on her beliefs and research – and most definitely against the odds.

Directed by Steven Frears, and written by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, the trio that also brought to life the sad, but brilliant, Philomena, The Lost King isn’t just based on the true story of finding history beneath the ground we walk (and park), but also of one woman’s fight against the institution, and even those around her.

The outstanding Sally Hawkins portrays Philippa, and we first find her stuck in a long-term sales job and being overlooked by her manager for those younger than her, and at a loss in her life. Her ex-husband John (Steve Coogan) is trying to move on, and she’s looking after her two young lads and like so many of us, endeavouring to get by. She’s more in the middle-class zone, it must be said, but like anyone into their 30s or 40s, and working in a job where you’re under appreciated, you’ll emotively connect quite quickly.

After seeing Shakespeare’s Richard III (played by Harry Lloyd) with her kids, something awakens in her with the character – and after researching, she starts to feel he’s being unfairly represented in history. Overall, there’s little doubt her feelings reflect her own life, and you can see why an obsession and investigation began. And whilst also suffering from ME, she begins to see an apparition of Richard III (also Lloyd) and her quest to find out where he was buried, and endeavour to clear his reputation from over 500 years ago ignites.

With Frears directing, and Hawkins leading the way, it’s extremely easy to side with Philippa through her many difficulties. What’s particularly interesting is the way British academics are framed, as well as some establishment members – often belittling her directly and dismissing her claims before they’ve been given a chance. Having personally worked in these places and knowing people of the ilk that treat her inadequately, they don’t feel that over-dramatized – and it’s a world I’ve seen, especially when it comes to men in power dealing with people they think are at a lower status. Even if they’re clearly on equal, if not better, levels.

For me, The Lost King isn’t just a story about finding someone in history – nor yourself – but it’s got the echoes of a very British and academic culture that’s set in the past, and their belief that everything is set in stone, but this isn’t just a British story, it’s a deeper tale about self-belief, about having a passion for learning and developing. It’s also about getting older and how convictions you had in your youth may be just an important – but may be harder to implement. Especially as you try to step outside of what everyone thinks you are already.

Alongside Hawkins, Coogan gives us an easy, but supportive role, and it’s good to see James Fleet and Mark Addy with relatively compassionate co-starring roles. The Lost King is also a story about trust, family and an empowering reminder of the strength of a woman who took on experts, made them think again and proved she was right all along.

Sally Hawkins is exceptional, it’s not a complicated watch but that makes it all the easier to endorse!

Extras: The trailer plus two featurettes which give further insight, from The True Story with the cast and crew, through to The Real Kingfinder, which speaks to Philippa herself and the 10-year journey it took for her to finally prove her convictions.

The Lost King is out on DVD and to Stream from Warner Bros now: https://amzn.to/3FKln3i

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