FlixChatter Review: The Lost King (2023) – Sally Hawkins charms as a tenacious Richard III superfan in a moving feel-good story


I have been waiting for this movie for quite some time, as a few years ago I became obsessed with Richard III after watching The White Queen. The Starz series presented a more sympathetic portrayal of the last Plantagenet king, who was also the last English king to die in battle in 1485 which ended the bloody Wars of the Roses. Soon after I watched the series, I stumbled upon an article about Philipa Langley’s amazing discovery of Richard III’s remains in a car park in 2012, and so I bought her book The King’s Grave: The Search for Richard III and a couple others.

I was surprised it took a decade for this story to be told on screen as there are far fewer interesting stories put on screen. In any case, the story pretty much begins when Philippa attends a Richard III play in Edinburgh where she lives with her two kids, shortly after she lost a work promotion. Perhaps her state of mind at the time made her feel somewhat of a kinship with the late monarch who’s been mischaracterized as an evil hunchback and usurper thanks to the famous Shakespeare play. Suddenly she starts to see apparitions of Richard wherever she goes, who looks exactly like the actor in the play (Harry Lloyd).


The film shows how Philippa is struggling with her Chronic fatigue syndrome as she balances work and raising her two boys. She still has an amicable relationship with her ex-husband John (Steve Coogan) who shares custody of the kids and lives nearby. What starts out as a curiosity soon became an obsession for Philippa who promptly joins the local Richard III Society, formed by those who believe Richard was unfairly maligned by Tudor propagandists. She devours every book on Richard III she could find at a local library, and attend lectures on the subject all the way in Leicester (about 5 hours away by train) where she meets historian/author Dr. Ashdown-Hill (James Fleet), a key individual who became an ally in her quest to find Richard’s grave.

There’s quite a pedigree in the team bringing the story to life. Director Stephen Frears, screenwriters Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, and lead actress Sally Hawkins are all multiple Oscar nominees. What I like about this movie is how Coogan and Pope added the fantasy bit with Richard’s which becomes the comic relief as well as the manifestation of Philippa’s obsession with him. At first, the ghost never said a word, but then he suddenly speaks. When Philippa inquires why, he just shrugs it off saying ‘well you never asked me anything,’ ha! 


His appearance in the form of a handsome young actor is amusing instead of creepy, which also works to dispel people’s impression of him as a misshapen hunchback. I quite enjoyed the rapport between the two. There are some poignant moments, such as the farewell at Bosworth Field where he was killed, and when she inquires him about some touchy subjects about the two princes in the tower. Even after 500 years, some things would just be too painful to talk about. 

The political aspect regarding the dig and the conflict between Philippa and the University of Leicester who sidelined her is a big part of the plot. The writers made it out to be a David vs Goliath, anti-corporatism story with the University, specifically its Archaeological Services (ULAS) as the primary antagonist. Though it’s not entirely inaccurate, it felt a bit tacked on somehow. The flip-flopping of the university’s lead archaeologist Richard Buckley (Mark Addy) is overdramatized that it doesn’t ring true. I understand the filmmakers work closely with Philippa, so they do right by her, but painting her like a champion/martyr feels oddly Hollywood-ized.


One example is that the movie made it seem like Philippa really did get some supernatural ‘tip’ if you will, when she figured out where Richard was buried, but in reality, there were already two published books that speculate about the location of his burial, pretty much around the area where the Grey Friars church once stood. Still, it was her perseverance in organizing the whole architectural dig that finally led to the discovery.

Overall though, this is an uplifting, feel-good movie. I enjoyed the movie and Sally Hawkins’ performance as a rather awkward but deeply sympathetic person. Her cordial relationship with her ex seems too good to be true, but apparently, that is based on fact. It’s quite inspiring to see Philippa’s tenacity and determination to get the excavation project off the ground. The online crowdfunding scene when she lost the initial funding is a particularly rousing one. Clearly, Philippa has a deep respect and affection for Richard and that comes across in a heartwarming way.


It’s interesting that the same director who was Oscar-nominated for his work in The Queen, who was also often misrepresented by the media, now made a film about another monarch, albeit from two different royal houses. I’m glad this movie exists as more people should learn about who Richard III truly was, instead of simply taking all the distorted versions at face value. History is often written by the victors, so it’s good that after five centuries, he’s finally declared the rightful king of England and NOT a usurper.

3.5/5 Reels

Have you seen The Lost King? I’d love to hear what you think!


5 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: The Lost King (2023) – Sally Hawkins charms as a tenacious Richard III superfan in a moving feel-good story

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  2. Pingback: What I Watched in March 2023 + Mini Reviews + Movie Of the Month – FLIXCHATTER FILM BLOG – Motube

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