TIFF ’22: The Lost King

Director Stephen Frears guides Sally Hawkins’ quest for the burial place of Richard III. She takes on the real-life role of Philippa Langley, an amateur historian, who turned away from the established historical ‘facts’ of Richard III as a usurper and began a hunt for his final resting place.

Based on Langley’s own book, which she wrote with Michael K. Jones, the script is penned by Steven Coogan, who co-stars as Langley’s supportive ex-husband, and Jeff Pope. Driven by a quest for the truth, and haunted by her own imagination, which conjures a Richard III (Harry Lloyd), for her to interact with. Phillipa listens to her intuition, and her blossoming love of history, and finds herself in constant conflict with the academic world, predominantly men, who are completely uninterested in a reexamination of the facts.

Alexandre Desplat delivers a unique score, which from the opening title sequences felt like a Bernard Hermann opening to a Hitchcock film, the credits definitely leaned into the sense as well. In fact, throughout the film, it felt like a Hitch movie if he ever directed a true-to-life tale with a sense of fun, and discovery.

The climax of the film is a brutal indictment of the academic world, and serves as a modern-day reflection of the fate, and rewritten history of Richard himself. The universities and politicians are ready to take all the glory and bury Philippa’s work, but if it restores Richard’s title will it be worth it?

Hawkins is a gem and brings Philippa’s failures, and successes to compelling life, while the subject matter is given the BBC Films touch. It’s magical and entertaining and brought to life a little corner of ancient, and modern history that I knew nothing about it.

The Lost King screens on Friday the 16th, and Sunday the 18th with both screenings taking place at the Lightbox.

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