Sally Hawkins Shines in an Incredible True Story


Sally Hawkins shines in the incredible true story of an indomitable woman who achieved an extraordinary feat. The Lost King chronicles the discovery of King Richard III’s burial site by Philippa Langley; a divorced, chronically ill mother of two who refused to be discounted. She adamantly pursued her dream in the face of derision and insulting academics. The film uses fantasy elements to accompany Philippa on her search. She imagines talking to Richard III when no one else believes in her. Experts aren’t infallible. A regular person with guts, intellect, and willpower can prove them wrong.

In Edinburgh, Scotland, Philippa Langley (Hawkins) is passed over for a promotion at work. She asks why younger and less productive people were given the job. Philippa’s manager coldly blames her disorder, ME or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She returns home feeling depressed and unappreciated. A viewing of Shakespeare’s Richard III at her son’s school that night changes her life. She’s bothered by Richard’s portrayal as an ugly, hunchbacked murderer. Shakespeare wrote the play a hundred years after Richard’s death. How did he know what actually happened?

Cursory research into Richard III reveals many historical inaccuracies now accepted as fact. Philippa understood being bullied and blamed for a handicap. She dives deeper into her subject and becomes enthralled. Richard III wasn’t like Shakespeare’s depiction. He was smeared by the Tudors who came to power after his death. Philippa’s fascination takes an odd turn. She starts seeing and talking to Richard III (Harry Lloyd).

Philippa’s Quest

Warner Bros. Pictures

John (Steve Coogan), her ex-husband, wonders what’s happening to her. She’s quit her job and is mysteriously gone every day. Philippa joined The Richard III Society, a group of like-minded people. They lead her to Richard Buckley (Mark Addy), an archeologist at the University of Leicester. He agrees to meet Philippa, but like everyone else, doesn’t take her seriously. How can she know where Richard III is buried when accomplished academics have been stumped for five hundred years?

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Hawkins has an incredible ability to portray vulnerability and strength at the same time. Philippa is consistently underestimated by everyone she encounters. They brand her as diminutive and frail, an obsessed woman blindly following hunches. Philippa’s interactions with Richard III gives her the strength to carry on. Hawkins builds confidence with each new piece to the puzzle. You watch as a beautiful and thoughtful butterfly comes out of her cocoon.

Coogan produces, co-stars, and co-writes a remarkable script. The decision to have Richard III physically present on screen pays off. It gives the audience and Philippa something tangible to believe instead of arcane historical references. Coogan plays John with nuance and heart. His concern about Philippa’s well-being evolves into unconditional support. John loves her deeply. He becomes an invaluable ally in her darkest moments. Their relationship is the backbone of the film and fantastic to behold.

A Place in History

I honestly couldn’t give a hoot about Richard III or the British monarchy, but can appreciate a struggling woman following her dream with fervor. The film is her journey. Philippa Langley represents what can be accomplished in the face of daunting obstacles. She earns her place in history alongside Richard III.

The Lost King is a production of Pathé, Baby Cow Productions, BBC Film, British Film Institute, and Ingenious. It will have a US theatrical release on March 24th from IFC Films.


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