review: the lost king
Going on a hunch
If there’s one thing that British cinema does very well, it’s genial low-stakes capers, with a slightly eccentric protagonist tilting at windmills of varying seriousness. In the last year or so, we’ve had ‘Mrs Harris Goes to Paris’, and then more recently ‘Living’, both of which were feelgood romps of this very ilk. The Lost King also sidles up to this genre, but has the distinction of being based on a recent true story, which adds to the charm.
The true story is this: In 2012, Philippa Langley, a single mother from Edinburgh, spearheaded a successful search for the hereto lost grave of King Richard III. She also sought to redeem his image, which had been so thoughtlessly trashed by one William Shakepeare and propaganda by the Tudor royal family that replaced him - the last of the Plantagenet kings.
Pop history remembers Ricky III as a cruel hunchback who locked up and murdered young princes after imprisoning them in the Tower of London, and yet beyond a cursory analysis, there is little factual historical evidence to support any of this.
Driven by a humdrum life and a sudden vigor thanks to some new historical society chums, Langley sets about locating and digging up the lost grave, which just happened to be under a civil service car park in the city of Leicester.
Langley is played with no little charisma by the excellent Sally Hawkins, who also communes with the dashing ghost of said King (who can only be seen by her) during her quest. Hawkins is probably most famous for being the non-aquatic love interest in The Shape of Water (for which she was Oscar nominated). There’s definitely a parasocial relationship that develops here - can Hollywood ever give Hawkins a human boyfriend again?
Steve Coogan plays Langley’s coparenting ex husband, and though initially skeptical, he eventually becomes a supportive cog in the machine. The hunt and excavation takes on a life of its own once the probability of finding the actual body becomes more likely, and much of the movie is spent on the various public bodies that unfairly swoop in to try and claim credit for Langley’s work.
It’s an inspiring tale of creating a new life that centers your own fulfillment, as well as good, old-fashioned tenacity. A put-upon David who takes down the Goliaths of naysaying academics. It being a true story, we know (or can easily find out about) the outcome before it happens, but it doesn’t detract from the joyous ending, and thanks to Hawkins and Coogan, it’s a satisfying retelling, and finally it’s on Langley’s terms. (PO)
The Lost King is playing at The Prytania Canal Place
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