07 Oct 22
Sally Hawkins, Steve Coogan, Harry Lloyd
For centuries, historical debate has simmered about Richard III – was he the hunchbacked usurper depicted in Shakespeare's famous play, or was this a caricature devised by a playwright currying favour with the Tudor monarchy that replaced England's last Plantagenet king?
The Lost King – from the creative team that brought us the multiple-Oscar-nominated (and box office smash hit) Philomena – is interested in exploring the facts behind the myths of that conundrum but finds its true dramatic heart in a different story: how an ordinary individual and self-taught amateur defied the many doubters to discover the buried remains of an English king, long thought to be lost.
Directed by Stephen Frears and scripted by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope (who won the BAFTA for their Philomena screenplay), The Lost King tells the story of Philippa Langley (Sally Hawkins), an unassuming and seemingly unconfident woman who is passed over for promotion at work, and is now separated from her husband John (Coogan), while still living with him and their two sons in their Edinburgh home. In the past, she has suffered from M.E., or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – an illness that has often elicited more blame than sympathy.
Philippa goes to a theatre production of Richard III and finds herself drawn to the play's subject – a man who is rejected by everyone, and who was the last English monarch to be slain on the battlefield (at Bosworth Field).
She is inspired by apparitions of the 15th century king in the form of the actor she has just seen on stage (Harry Lloyd), and joins the Edinburgh branch of the Richard III Society, beginning a journey that takes her to a Leicester car park – and one of the most extraordinary historical finds of modern times.
With her Oscar- and BAFTA-nominated turns in Blue Jasmine and The Shape Of Water, as well as her performances in British indie films such as Happy-Go-Lucky and Made In Dagenham, Hawkins has brought deft layers of texture to likeable underdog roles, and once again it's her subtle shades of vulnerability that make her character a woman we naturally care about.
As she battles the male academic establishment, apt to dismiss her as an amateur guided by feminine (therefore irrational) intuition, Hawkins utterly convinces through her arc from fragility to agency and ultimately power.
Coogan and Pope have drawn on Langley's unlikely journey and crafted a smart screenplay, laced with their own wit, adding comedic notes to the film's astonishing true story.
Adding further depth and warmth is the depiction of the Langleys' strained marriage: not the violent antipathy often seen on screen but an authentic depiction of two people who ultimately do care about each other even if they struggle to show it. Coogan – taking a back seat – twinkles as he finds a path through his own redemptive journey.
Landing in our cinemas almost exactly 10 years after the buried remains of Richard were discovered in autumn 2012, The Lost King will launch the Toronto Film Festival in September, and then vie for the attention of awards voters in categories including lead actress, screenplay and score (the latter by double Oscar winner Alexandre Desplat).
They will all be worthy contenders for this powerfully affecting, vitally human and entertaining drama, celebrating a woman who refused to be defined by other people, who was overlooked, and who found her voice. Charles Gant
Made In Dagenham2010
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