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For anyone interested in the history of England's Tudor dynasty, this is
definitely a must-see film. The most famous of the Tudors are King Henry
VIII and Queen Elizabeth I, but this film offers up a look at the intrigues
within the court in the period between Henry's death and Elizabeth's
accession, as Catholic Princess Mary strives to gain the throne after the
death of her Protestant brother King Edward VI. The religious divisions
caused by Henry VIII's embrace of the Reformation are well documented and
Helena Bonham Carter plays the title role - Lady Jane Grey - cousin of the young King Edward and a fanatical Protestant who is manouvered into taking the throne after Edward's death at the age of 15. Jane - also 15 - is at first overwhelmed by the thought of being Queen, but then embraces the throne. Her immaturity, however, and wilfullness (not surprisingly for a 15 year old) get the better of her and lead to her downfall after only nine days on the throne, and Mary's accession. Carter was excellent in this role. Cary Elwes also offered up a strong performance as Guilford Dudley, whom Jane is forced to marry against her will, but whom she falls passionately in love with. The supporting cast included performances - all of them quite good - by Sara Kestelman as Jane's mother Frances, Patrick Stewart as her father Henry, John Wood as the Duke of Northumberland (Guilford's father), Warren Saire as the young King Edward, and - playing this role absolutely perfectly - Michael Hordern as Dr. Feckenham, confessor to Princess Mary. In fact, there really wasn't a sub-par performance in this movie.
It isn't perfect, mind you. It's a little bit too long, and I found myself, particularly in the last hour or so, wondering when it would end. Some of the history is questionable. Many historians think that neither Jane nor Edward were as innocent in the plot to keep Mary from the throne as the movie portrays them, and the love story between Jane and Guilford is, as I understand it, largely fictional. But the basics are quite correct, the behind the scenes plotting believably portrayed and the religious struggle of the time absolutely authentic. It's well worth watching this movie if you are interested in this period of English history.
The first thing to love about this movie is how good it is at being a
historical drama. It opens by telling you what has come before, and the
ending is made even more poignant (if that is possible) by knowing what
come after. In between, it stays far more authentic than many "historical"
movies ever bother to with little apparent effort. This ease is due not
to the gripping bit of history being told, but to the superb acting by all
the major players.
While none of the performances are bad, or even mediocre, some bits manage to shine even brighter. Jane Lapotaire as Princess Mary is wonderfully haunted by longing and desperation behind the strong, poised front. Patrick Stewart shows us ever so briefly that his Henry Grey is not only a cold-hearted conspirator and dominating patriarch, but a father who desperate needs to make things right for his little girl. Helena Bonham Carter and Cary Elwes play superbly off each other as Lady Jane Grey and Guilford Dudley, bringing out nuances in each other's performance that cement the core of this beautiful story.
This is one of those movies where after you turn it off, it sticks with you. The acting is exquisite and the whole movie is executed with sensitivity. After watching it, I felt like I had to know more about Lady Jane Grey's real story. The truth, as the history books tell it, isn't quite as pretty or romantic as the movie made it seem, but other than that it is very historically accurate as most period piece movies go. I would strongly recommend this film (10 stars!) and would see it over again.
It's difficult to know how to take a film that begins with a history lesson
(to the self-important sound of a beating drum, no less) and ends with a
quote from Plato. Between the two is a narrative that wants to be both a
conventional love story and an unconventional period film. It doesn't quite
succeed at either, but for viewers of LADY JANE, the pleasure is in the
details, and there are plenty of those.
To first dispense with the glaring historical inaccuracy that lies at the film's center, Lady Jane Grey, the Nine-Day Queen of England in 1553, did not in truth have a passionate love match in her husband, Guilford Dudley. Theirs was an arranged marriage, highly political in nature and masterminded by Dudley's ambitious father, the Duke of Northumberland. In reality, Jane resented and distrusted her husband, who was a spoiled and rather empty-headed young man with none of the high intellectual achievement so prominent in Jane.
For the second dispensation, Helena Bonham Carter, who plays Jane, is still unskilled at acting in this, her first role. She can furrow her brow with admirable dexterity to denote every emotion from confusion to embarrassment to sexual fulfillment, but there's little evidence of much going on behind, in the furrows of an actor's brain. However, since those afore-mentioned details surround her, it becomes fairly easy for a more demanding audience to overlook her callowness.
Now for the details, beginning with everyone else in the cast. Has John Wood ever utilised his supercilious half-smile to better advantage? As Northumberland, he's perfect - driven by the need to consolidate his power when Jane's cousin Edward VI falls into a fatal illness, he conceives a scheme that will require relentless control over nearly everyone at court. While his fellow ministers, all burly toughs, inevitably knuckle under to his combination of silken flattery and outright threats, he's thwarted by two seemingly weak women - Jane and Mary Tudor (played with real grit and bitterness by Jane Lapotaire). It's a tossup whether Wood is better at the threats or at two points of emotional breakdown - one, when he must cast the die and order the agonising prolongation of Edward's death to complete his plans, or when, mud-pelted and dishevelled following his defeat by Mary's army, he ends up in the Tower, where all he can offer to his sons and followers is a weary, `I'm sorry.' It's the rare film where Wood's comic instincts don't get the better of his serious performance - this is one of them.
As Jane's equally controlling parents, Patrick Stewart and Sara Kestelman are almost as good. Stewart's character, the Duke of Suffolk, isn't a bright man, but his pursuit of his ambitions never quite overrides his notion of family honor, and this keeps him sympathetic, as all the supposed villains of the film remain. That's another of the details that deserves cherishing - the refusal to go for simplistic characters. Stewart is especially good when he throws all caution to the wind and raises an army to rescue his daughter, overriding even the objections of his formidable wife.
Other details are in the costuming, the suitably squalid tavern and brothel scenes, the bit where the aristocratic Kestelman chows down on her dinner, gnawing on a greasy chop and wiping her mouth with her sleeve, and the achingly beautiful winter deer hunt that runs under the opening credits. All this and more make up for a downbeat ending and a central failure to come up with a satisfying examination of that most enigmatic of queens, Lady Jane Grey.
It's hard for me to be objective about this film as I find both the main
actors so divine, but I thought the portrayal of the developing romance
extremely moving, by the time the film ended I was sobbing, and I say that
about almost NO movie.
The cinematography was stunning, both indoor and outdoor shots were beautifully visualised and captured. The sets and costumes also were extremely well done.
"The next time I see your face, I want it for eternity." If you know much at all about Lady Jane Grey and her unfortunate marriage to Guildford Dudley, you must know this cannot at all be what she said to him as they were parted for the last time. Yet the story branches away from the historical aspects of Jane's life and builds up a romance completely created in the minds of the writers, who have done an excellent job. In the beginning, the scene at Bradgate in Leicester, with the dance for the King, is extremely well shot. The plot thickens between the cunning Earl of Northumberland and the cold, greedy Duchess of Suffolk, while Jane argues theology with the Catholic doctor. Comparing this with history, I believe this was also very well written; from what I've read on Jane Grey (I have done extensive Tudor period research) I know she was very Protestant and, unlike the later Queen Elizabeth, very willing to argue on the topic of religion. Perhaps my favorite scene in the entire movie is the one where Jane goes to visit the Princess Mary. In this scene the Renaissance class system is extremely well depicted. The outwardly friendly but rather sneaky nature the Princess' maid (I believe that is Lady Anne Wharton) conducts herself shows the "subservience of the lesser nobility"; the proud way Jane speaks to the maid shows what the upper nobility could do; and then the regal, majestic, icy cold way the Princess Mary enters the room and "embraces" her second-cousin is the perfect example of a Princess of two royal bloodlines. Later, the love that blooms between Guildford and Jane will, without a doubt, sweep you off your feet. If you've ever been in love, I guarantee you'll relive some fond memories there. Overall, an excellent movie and highly recommended.
I had to watch this movie for a British History course, and I was fully expecting to be bored during the entire thing, but I was so pleasantly suprised! This was a great movie - great acting, directing, plot, settings, etc. And apparently it's a great movie to watch to get a feel for that period in England, 'cause my professor made us watch it. I would definitely recommend this movie to anybody who has ever watched and enjoyed any period drama before!
This is definitely a tissue box movie girls, so keep a full box handy.
I first met this young couple, Lady Jane and Guildford, in 1990 and watched it over and over until I had my favourite quotes down pat, like all those mentioned on this site.
The music and drama draw you into the movie, from the opening scenes with the pounding horse hooves to the passion and love found in the closing scenes.
Seeing the movie 15 years later renewed old emotions, dreams and memories of the past. I've encouraged friends to watch it with me, including my new husband! He won't admit it, but even for a period movie, he enjoyed it. He also enjoyed teasing me when I was blowing my nose through the final scenes. I cry every time! It's such a touching and inspirational movie, of the excitement of first love, family torment, and just wanting to experience life and make a difference.
I highly recommend this movie, it has something in it for everyone.
I first saw this movie in 88 on cable, and have seen it numerous times since. I never tire of watching it. It was the first Elwes movie I saw, and was so moved by his performance, that I have become a dedicated fan of his since. Although in real life Jane and Gilford never loved each other, the on screen love story is very moving. Lady Jane is an excellent, yet, overlooked, piece of work, and I highly recommend it.
Although it has been more than a decade since I saw Lady Jane, I remember that it moved me greatly. The ambiance and characters are fully developed. Helen Bonham Carter was quite young, perfect for the role, and turned out to be quite a revelation. I saw the film in Madrid. I'll never forget the sight of a middle aged Spaniard (male) in the audience weeping at the conclusion. (The Spanish nobility were the "bad guys" of this drama).
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