With her marriage in tatters and suddenly finding herself unemployed a downtrodden woman becomes fixated on finding the final resting place of King Richard III.
One of the things that many cinema fans have commented on this year is that 2023 has really been a big year for people that prefer ‘nice’ films. What is a ‘nice’ film you may well ask, well to many a ‘nice’ film is a film that is one the quieter side of things and tells softer stories that make you think. You know the kind of stories that you don’t very often get if you go to see the latest blockbuster film. Well, the good news is that 2023 finally delivers a ‘nice’ film with the brand new flick The Lost King.
Directed by Stephen Frears (The Queen) The Lost King tells the real-life story of amateur historian Philippa Langley (Sally Hawkins – The Shape Of Water) who after unfairly losing her job decides to put her life on hold while she tries to solve one of history’s biggest mysteries – what happened to the body of King Richard III.
To Philippa it seems like a task that she was born to conquer but to those around her it is laughable. Her estranged husband, John (Steve Coogan – Philomena) sees it as a comical waste of time and even laughs about it openly with their children, and even historian Richard Buckley (Mark Addy – The Full Monty) thinks it is a joke but goes along with her ideas in order to try and keep his relevance in his now threatened job.
What makes matters worse for Philippa is that she is also now seeing visions of Richard III (Harry Lloyd – Jane Eyre) which makes even her start to question her own sanity.
Despite the ‘nice’ nature of this film this would not have been an easy film for Frears and his screenwriters to put together. The film itself calls for unnatural tone – this isn’t a film that could have too many ‘comical’ moments but at the same time the events that the film is following are things that would make the average person on the street chuckle if they heard about it. Somehow though Frears, Coogan and Jeff Pope (Stan & Ollie) manage to infuse a little bit of comedy into what ends up being a pretty emotional plot that concentrates on a woman that despite the world being against her is determined to achieve her goal.
There are a lot of themes explored in this film that will make the audience stop and think – from the way woman are treated in the workplace through to husbands who refuse to support the dreams of their wives and how big business can often never be trusted. The fact that Frears, Coogan and Pope manage to bring those thought-provoking topics into the film without make it feel laboured is a real achievement and it is one of the reasons that this film will become so special to many.
The other major obstacle that the filmmakers behind The Lost King is that one of the major oppositions to Philippa in the film because an obstacle for the filmmakers themselves when they started to put the film together. A certain educational institution (that will remain nameless here due to legal reasons) began to stir up trouble when this film went production claiming that the story had been romanticised and once again set out to bring down Philippa and her story of events. Credit must be given to the studio and the producers who stuck to Philippa’s story and decided that this important story needed to be told to the wider public.
The other reason why this film becomes so memorable is because of the performance of Sally Hawkins. Hawkins portrays the unsure and often maligned Philippa brilliantly well especially considering she like Frears and his team was facing a pretty hard task to bring Philippa alive on screen. It must have been in Hawkins mind throughout the shoot that often these down-trodden characters can often feel very laborious for an audience to watch – so in order for the film that work she also had to portray a character that has been mentally beaten in such a way that she would be completely likable to the audience. Hawkins does that so well that she not only has the audience barracking for Philippa that will find themselves eagerly anticipating the time when she finally stands up for herself.
Some people might be put off by the fact that The Lost King centres around history but please don’t let that be the case. This is a beautiful film that is about so much more than that. Like films like The Castle before it this is a film that is about the human spirit and how a person should never give up on their goals. With many thought-provoking moments throughout the film and an amazing acting performance by Sally Hawkins The Lost King is well worth a look.