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#TIFF22 Review: The Lost King (Special Presentations)

September 16, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The 2022 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 8th to 18th.

Sally Hawkins stars in The Lost King as Philippa Langley, a writer in England living with ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis, or chronic fatigue syndrome) who has hit a wall in her life, with an ex-husband (Steve Coogan) who still prepares meals for her and their two sons (Benjamin Scanlan and Adam Robb) before going off on dates. But she finds a renewed sense of purpose when she sees a local theatre production of Shakespeare’s King Richard III, widely accepted as an accurate depiction of the defeated monarch.

Philippa takes pity on the historically maligned figure, so much so that she joins an amateur historical society of like-minded folks trying to reclaim his legacy, believing him to be a misunderstood victim of revisionist history and propaganda by his successor Henry Tudor. Discovering that his final resting place is a secret, she becomes determined to locate his grave to pay her respects.

The latest film from veteran director Stephen Frears (The Queen, Philomena), The Lost King is an enjoyable British film co-written by Coogan and Jeff Pope that turns this true story into a modest little crowdpleaser. If it lacks the staying power of a film like Philomena (also written by Coogan and Pope), its ambitions are also much different. It’s a film that is made to be enjoyed, while also getting us to think a little deeper about the real history behind it. The film is brought to life through some light fantasy touches, with Philippa conversing with an apparition of King Richard III (played by Harry Lloyd).

As bureaucrats start circling Philippa’s research like vultures, The Lost King also serves to highlight the quiet eccentrics who do the work but rarely get the credit. Philippa remains an endearing protagonist, even as her quest threatens to boil over into obsession, and Hawkins is very good at playing this sort of role. She ensures that we remain invested in her quest, delivering a very good performance that helps ground this modest but enjoyable little film.

Public Screenings:

Friday, September 9th – 5:00 PM at Royal Alexandra Theatre

Saturday, September 10th – 3:30 PM at Scotiabank 4

Friday, September 16th – 9:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

Sunday, September 18th – 10:00 AM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

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