The Movie Waffler New to VOD - THE LOST KING | The Movie Waffler


the lost king review
The search for Richard III's remains.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Stephen Frears

Starring: Sally Hawkins, Steve Coogan, Harry Lloyd, Mark Addy, Lee Ingleby, James Fleet

the lost king poster

In September 2012 the remains of Richard III were discovered buried beneath a car park in the English midlands city of Leicester. At the forefront of the discovery was Philippa Langley, though the level of her involvement has been the subject of some debate. With Langley portrayed by Sally Hawkins, Stephen Frears' The Lost King purports to put Langley front and centre of the discovery of the King, but in doing so it demonises the other parties involved.

the lost king review

After a credits sequence that for some unfathomable reason evokes Hitchcock's Psycho, we're introduced to Langley as she's passed over for a promotion at her telesales job. Langley storms into her boss's office, claiming that she was more deserving of the promotion than those who received it. It's established early on that Langley is someone whose talents have been unfairly overlooked, but the film tells us this rather than shows us any evidence to back up this assertion. We're asked to believe Langley's claims that she was deserving of the promotion, but we've only just met her – why should we believe her?

This carries over into the subsequent search for Richard III. I can't say I know anything about Langley's methods, but I'm sure she put a hell of a lot of work into researching the king in order to come to the conclusion that he was residing under a car park. Frears brushes over this research, creating the impression that Langley was simply following her gut. Langley becomes interested in Richard after attending a production of Shakespeare's Richard III and throws herself into the world of the king, reducing her interest to a whim, as though she suddenly discovered pilates. The search for Richard is reduced to a series of hunches, and anyone who objects to acting on feelings over evidence is villainised.

the lost king review

Langley objects to Shakespeare's portrayal of Richard III, believing he was a far more benevolent leader than the bard's work would suggest. She feels it's unfair that history views a real life figure through a dramatisation, but The Lost King is guilty of the very same thing. Various real life academic figures are portrayed as cartoon baddies for not believing in Langley, but the film's presentation of Langley's research is so flimsy that it's easy to see why this amateur who just recently became obsessed with Richard III might be dismissed by academics who have spent their whole adult lives in this field.

Another of the film's themes revolves around Shakespeare's cruel portrayal of the hunchbacked Richard and how we equate a lack of physical attractiveness with evil. But again, the film is hypocritical on this issue as the vision of Richard that Langley is frequently visited by presents the king as a very conventionally handsome figure. Having Langley converse with the imaginary king comes off as lazily convenient writing at best, a condescending portrayal of mental illness at worst. "I'm not crazy," Langley tells several people. Why are you talking to a centuries dead king then?

the lost king review

It's a shame that The Lost King is dogged by so many issues, as its early scenes hint at the potential for what could have been a highly engaging detective story. Frears does a fine job of getting us excited early on for Langley's impending quest, but the journey to find Richard III is glossed over in favour of a trite battle of the sexes between Langley and various male academics and intellectuals, all of whom are portrayed as dismissive or patronising gits. Much like Andrew Dominik's Marilyn Monroe biopic Blonde, The Lost King seems more interested in making some cheap points about the patriarchy than in celebrating the achievements of the woman at the centre of its story.

The Lost King
 is on UK/ROI VOD now.

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