The Other Boleyn Girl
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Justin Chadwick
scr Peter Morgan
with Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana, David Morrissey, Jim Sturgess, Mark Rylance, Kristin Scott Thomas, Eddie Redmayne, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ana Torrent, Oliver Coleman, Juno Temple
release US 29.Feb.08, UK 7.Mar.08
08/UK Focus 1h54
The Other Boleyn Girl
Sisters in love: Johansson and Portman

bana morrissey sturgess

28th Shadows Awards
Kristin Scott Thomas


The Other Boleyn Girl There are moments when you can see how terrific this film could have been--expert production design, superb performances, an insightful script. Alas, it feels harshly edited, zipping through events so quickly that we're left utterly cold.

Thomas and Elizabeth Boleyn (Rylance and Scott Thomas) have a problem: Elizabeth's brother (Morrissey) has suggested they offer eldest daughter Anne (Portman) as mistress to King Henry VIII (Bana), thereby guaranteeing success for the entire family. But Henry instead takes notice of younger sister Mary (Johansson), who must now quietly leave her new husband (Cumberbatch). Soon she's pregnant, and Anne's job to maintain Henry's interest in Mary takes a turn when he starts pursuing her instead. Then she realises that she can get rather more than a fling if she holds out.

The story is packed with possibility, and Morgan's screenplay does manage to get under the surface of the historical events, bringing out tiny details of each character's personality that the talented cast plays with telling subtlety. Portman and Johansson are engaging and complex at the centre of the storm, while no one else gets more than a few scenes each. Bana has almost nothing to do at all; Morrissey's character is more interesting, despite the creepy haircut.

But neither Anne nor Mary are terribly sympathetic. Anne's relentless flirtation and bullheaded willfulness contrast sharply against her sister's compliance and soulful yearning. But we almost feel they get the misery they deserve. This misstep comes from the filmmakers' cerebral approach to the story, most notably the way they rush us through the events like we're watching an extended trailer for a richer and more involving six-part TV series.

Even so, there are several terrific scenes along the way. Dialog is laced with insinuation and intrigue, and there's an earthy tone that beautifully catches the sassy, snarky attitudes. There's also, of course, the powerful sweep of historical events, as Henry breaks with the Catholic Church and literally changes the world, although even this is brushed past as yet another plot point. And as the story turns increasingly gloomy and grim, it begins to feel more like a sanitised educational film than the blood-and-guts romance it should be.

cert 12 themes, violence, sexuality 12.Feb.08

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... The Other Boleyn Girl Marty Reeh, Redmond, WA: 3.5/5 "The movie wasn't perfect, but the actors had a good feel for their roles. The costumes and scenery were gorgeous and when the script was faithful to the book, you could visualize Phillipa Gregory's concept of the story. I loved it--saw it twice. No, it's not perfect, but there is too little of this type of film out there, and I enjoy the opportunity to see them when they are." (27.Apr.08)
© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall