The Lost King

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

The above passage concerns the inner belief that God will fulfill all of His promises. It is taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews, one of the books of the New Testament. Yet it could easily apply to amateur historian Philippa Langley and her tenacious mission to find the lost remains of King Richard III. The Lost King is a movie about faith.

Is Shakespeare’s play Richard III historical truth or a myth? Philippa’s real-life story begins after attending a performance of the play. She immediately identifies with the titular character, whom she feels has been unfairly misrepresented as a hunchback, child killer, and usurper of the throne. Feelings that he was a misunderstood monarch are the seeds of a burgeoning obsession. She stops going to work and even starts seeing his physical manifestation (Harry Lloyd) in real life. These visions fuel a decision to research the man. Her study suggests that the deposed monarch may not have been thrown into the River Soar but buried in what is now a social services parking lot. The search for his grave is designated as the “Looking for Richard” project. Lo! That would have made a catchier title. The fact that an Al Pacino-directed documentary already exists by that name made it less attractive.

Philippa Langley’s crusade is odd. She’s primarily driven by intuition and feeling. After entering a parking lot, she experiences a “strange sensation.” A giant painted “R” on the ground gives her pause. She inquires, and an attendant contends the letter stands for “reserved” (not Richard). These emotional qualities make the woman a dismissible figure by the stodgy academics at the University of Leicester. I’m not equipped to determine whether the negative presentation of the educational institution is accurate. However, deputy registrar Richard Taylor (Lee Ingleby) emerges as a most hissable villain–a self-seeker who elevates himself on the backs of others. Luckily Philippa does have some supporters. Archaeologist Richard Buckley (Mark Addy) eventually decided to support her venture. Meanwhile, this investigation seizes focus from a job that provides much-needed money for their two teenage boys. Nevertheless, ex-husband John (Steve Coogan) is surprisingly sympathetic to a point.

The portrayal of a passionate quest truly excels when the audience fully understands the protagonist’s fervor. Actor Steve Coogan co-stars and adapts the screenplay with Jeff Pope from the book The King’s Grave: The Search for Richard III by Langley and Michael Jones. Coogan is working with director Stephen Frears, with whom he collaborated on Philomena (2013). The director is known for polished, literate dramas involving clearly defined characters that explore social class. The Lost King is a worthy addition to his oeuvre. Though I took no sides in the debate about the nature of the 15th-century King of England before this film, I grew to appreciate her ambitious undertaking. Philippa’s persistence and tenacity ultimately changed the course of history, making this mission an admirable pursuit.


One Response to “The Lost King”

  1. This was so good. I didn’t know about any of this history. Worth watching. 3 1/2 stars ⭐️


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