Connect with us
The Lost King review


The Lost King is an Unlively Attempt at Revisionism

Stephen Frears brings Richard III back to life but forgets to give him a voice.

TIFF: The Lost King Review

Richard III has long been a figure of intrigue, as the notorious monarch is arguably Shakespeare’s most iconic character — inspiring one of his most recognizable and performed works, helmed by famous actors from Laurence Oliver to Benedict Cumberbatch, and even Al Pacino in his directorial debut. Known as a usurper with a signature hunchback, Richard III is The Bard’s definitive villain, with this Tudor-era depiction shaping the history and common perception around him —which has been a point of contention between many scholars.

Stephen Frears’ The Lost King, is a retelling of a true story centering on amateur historian, Philippa Langley (played likably by Sally Hawkins), who battled skepticism, sexism, and bureaucracy in a quest to locate the final remains of the maligned monarch, to prove he was not the villainous figure the victors of history made him out to be.

Yet, for a subject begging for nuance and layered debate, the film markedly has none, opting for a more sentimental, one-note, and anodyne approach that zaps this contentious issue of its vitality — much like the remains at the centre of it.

The Lost King movie review
(Image courtesy of TIFF)

Producer and co-writer Steve Coogan plays Langley’s supportive ex-husband, John, he’s essentially playing himself. Mark Addy stars as Dr. Richard Buckley, the archaeologist who directs the historic dig, and only comes to help Langley because of the financial incentive, Letting her down by not acknowledging her salience to the project. While Harry Lloyd portrays the titular king who comes to Langley in ghostly premonitions, dressed in full regalia and crown, comforting her with his (mostly) silent presence.

Yet, these private scenes between Langley and the spectral monarch unearth the film’s greatest shortcomings. In its attempt to rid Richard III of his villainous caricature, paints him as a dull, mute saint that embodies grace and wisdom. Frears and company forget that humanity takes on a greyer shade, and by illustrating him in this uniformly positive light are rewriting history to their liking, effectively echoing the Tudor “revisionists” they are critiquing.

The lost king movie review
(Image courtesy of TIFF)

Above all, this rendition of the infamous monarch is utterly boring and anti-dramatic. His famous charismatic malice is replaced with nothing, as the apparition that occupies the frame is utterly lifeless and lacking in personality. It’s obvious that Lloyd did the best with what he was given, but the sheer lack of dialogue, discourse, comedy, or even drama creates an experience that fails to entertain and rouse any genuine interest in its central concept. At most, the film gives more fire to the opposite perspective, establishing that it is more appealing to believe Richard III was the wicked villain Shakespeare and the Tudors made him out to be.

It all culminates in an experience that loses momentum far before its conclusion, and its would-be moment of triumphant discovery. Couple this with bland, serviceable filmmaking that is overflowing with rote close-ups and mediums that feel suffocatingly dull and limited in scope, and you are left with a wholly unsatisfying experience.

While The Lost King is admirable in its ambitions to highlight the story of a woman who was overshadowed by the academic establishment’s arrogance and complacency, the film is far too unlively to do it justice. Ultimately, It’s a misfired attempt at revisionism.

-Prabhjot Bains

The 47th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival takes place from September 8–18Find all our coverage here.

Written By

Prabhjot Bains is a Toronto-based film writer and critic who has structured his love of the medium around three indisputable truths- the 1970s were the best decade for American cinema, Tom Cruise is the greatest sprinter of all time, and you better not talk about fight club. His first and only love is cinema and he will jump at the chance to argue why his movie opinion is much better than yours. His film interests are diverse, as his love of Hollywood is only matched by his affinity for international cinema. You can reach Prabhjot on Instagram and Twitter @prabhjotbains96

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Mike

    September 30, 2022 at 10:44 am

    I think you have missed the point of the ghostly King Richard. Having not seen the film and only surmising from the trailer the King is a creation of Langley and as she idolises him gives him this saintly outcast. Why would she protray him as the wicked King? The film is not about Richard in fact but about Langley and it’s taken from her perspective, she would therefore not know (not does anyone alive today) what Richard was truly like. Giving him dramatic effect like you intend would go against the entire direction the film intends to tell.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Deep Impact was a serious look at the end of the world Deep Impact was a serious look at the end of the world

25 Years Later: Deep Impact was a Serious Look at the End of the World 


Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 movie review Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 movie review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Caps Off the Trilogy With a Heartfelt Bang (Mostly)


The Best Movies of 1973 The Best Movies of 1973

The Golden Year of Movies: 1973


The Zone of Interest The Zone of Interest

Cannes 2023: Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest is a Manicured Vision of Hell


Jeanne Du Barry review Jeanne Du Barry review

Cannes 2023: Maïwenn’s Great Hair Goes to Great Lengths in Jeanne Du Barry


The Best of the Beast – Brock Lesnar’s Ten Best Matches, Ranked The Best of the Beast – Brock Lesnar’s Ten Best Matches, Ranked

The Best of the Beast – Brock Lesnar’s Ten Best Matches, Ranked


BlackBerry movie review BlackBerry movie review

BlackBerry Is a Wonderfully Canadian Account of a Dying Tech Dream


Black Flies Gripping Black Flies Gripping

Cannes 2023: Black Flies— Gripping Descent into the Underbelly of New York’s Urban Misery 


Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret: Judy Blume’s Adaptation is Right On


Sean Garrity review Sean Garrity review

The End of Sex is a Ballsy Comedy of Marital Manners 


Sean Connery Sean Connery

60 Years Later, Dr. No Remains the Paragon of Bond


The Matrix Reloaded The Matrix Reloaded

20 Years Later: The Matrix Reloaded was Underwhelming, but Still Underrated


The Mother Jennifer Lopez and Lucy Paez The Mother Jennifer Lopez and Lucy Paez

Jennifer Lopez’s The Mother is Eerily Similar to Enough, But That’s Not a Bad Thing


He Got Game retrospective He Got Game retrospective

He Got Game was Spike Lee’s Shot at a Basketball Movie 


Godzilla 1998 Godzilla 1998

Godzilla at 25: When Hollywood Made a Manhattan Monster Movie, with Disastrous Results


Fast X Fast X

Fast X Finally Reaches the Franchise’s Breaking Point