on July 24, 1999
Helena Bonham Carter does a superb job portraying one of the most tragic characters in history, Lady Jane Grey, otherwise known as "the Nine Days Queen". Her soft innocence and vulnerability are convincing and heart rendering. You also get to see a very very young Cary Elwes providing a fine supporting role as her doomed husband and Patrick Stewart (way before his Star Trek days) giving an equally fine performance as her scheming father.
The story itself would make for a great Shakesparean tragedy if history hadn't written it first. I was quite moved at the cruel twists of fate that were handed out to this young girl. It is also a testament to the cruelty of parents to their children in sixteenth century England. This was commonplace at these times, even if one was of royal blood as Jane was.
The moving and historically accurate execution scene, in which the blindfolded Jane cannot find the block to rest her neck is quite heart wrenching. You want her to survive the circumstances that her family placed her in, and the wretchedness of her miserable upbringing. However, life is not a fairy tale, even for princesses; this is a profound example of the misery that many Tudor woman, including Elizabeth I, went through. I subtract one star for some of the historical inaccuracies, but overall it is a wonderful and moving film. It also makes you grateful that you did not live in those precarious times.
on October 13, 2000
Let's start with what's good about this movie. The cast is wonderful, the costumes superb, etc.
And, they even got part of the history right. In the 16th century people did argue passionately (and die) over religion, poor innocent Jane was the puppet of ruthlessly ambitious adults.
Blast it! That dumb love story ruined the whoe movie. There is absolutely no evidence that Jane and Guilford Dudley ever loved each other. Nor did they attempt to reform the coinage, build public schools, redistribute income... I think Jane's story is even more tragic when you realize that her horrible parents forced her into a loveless marriage to further their own ends.
But yet, the execution scene was true to the historical accounts. Can you imagine the horror of watching a blinfolded sixteen year old groping for the executioner's block, and asking: "Where is it? What do I do?"
If you ever go to London, visit the British Library where Jane's prayerbook is on display. The night before she died, she wrote a letter to her sister on the endpapers. The handwriting never wavers. What courage this innocent child had.
I loved this film for the great drama of a mere sixteen-year old being used for machinations of her family to ascend to the British throne. There is a scene where Lady Jane is punished (by spanking with a paddle or something) for disobedience; this is a harbinger of the ultimate tragedy for the hapless teenager. While the details of this historical drama are not precise, the tale is well-told and the costumes and scenery are magnificent. This is a good, riveting historical drama despite the liberties the screenwriters have taken.
on May 12, 2002
This gem of a film is from Helena Bonham-Carter's ingenue days in which she captures the strength of the pious and studious Nine-Days Queen magnificently. Strangely, paintings show she bears a stronger resemblance to Guildford Dudley than Cary Elwes, who makes up for his lack of physical resemblance to Jane's slovenly, disreputable husband by turning out a charismatic and thoughtful performance.
This rather heavy-handed account of Jane Grey's life has a lot of symbolism. In a very English hunting scene at the beginning (which closely resembles a Breughel painting), we see the elders in Jane's life closing in on a deer in much the same way they would trap Jane into serving their own corrupt ends. After Jane is whipped by her mother for her reluctance to marry the obnoxious Guildford Dudley, King Edward comforts her by giving her a puppet to play with. The symbolism of that moment at this point in the film is blantantly obvious.
Michael Hordern's Father Fekenham is a comforting presence in Jane's life, despite their disagreements over religion. He never hides the amount of respect he has for the young girl.
Inaccuracies of the film include the fact that Jane's parents, played by a hard-driven Patrick Stewart, and a ruthless Sarah Kestelman(who reaffirms the fact that the saintliness of Frances Grey's mother, Mary, who was Henry VIII's younger sister, truly skipped a generation)responded to Jane's initial refusal to marry Guildford by respectively slapping her in the face repeatedly and cursing her. While one is greatful that the audience is spared that, the nude scene between Jane and Guildford was a bit gratuitous, and as Jane was actually unwavering in her resentment of her chosen husband, it's highly unlikely that their union was consumated. But the earlier wedding scene was indeed, a phantasmagoria of white and gold, and beautiful to watch.
After her scheming elders place her on the throne, there is no evidence that Jane became, as Americans might say, a forerunner to FDR. She took to her bed, grief-stricken over the loss of King Edward.There is some truth to Guildford's having provided some comfort to her at this time, and part of the dialogue that is heard in the initial coronation scene is based on historical fact.
As Jane's Governess, Mrs. Ellen,played by Jill Bennett, stands by, a helpless witness to her brilliant charge's fate, Jane Lapotaire's gracefully portrayed Mary reclaims her throne, Henry Grey tears down the royal canopy, and all the conspirators, reluctant or otherwise, are placed under arrest. Jane bears these indignities, as she has many others throughout her life, with a courage and patience well beyond her years. John Dudley becomes a turncoat, deciding to return to Catholicism to save himself, much to the dismay of Guildford. But this scheme doesn't work. Jane and Guildford almost escape with their lives, until Henry Grey joins a rebellion to restore Jane to the throne.
Certain scenes of Jane's final days in the tower were given better treatment in the 1936 film, " Nine Days A Queen", starring Nova Pilbeam, and John Mills. But in the scenes of Jane on the scaffold are, for the most part, well-reenacted in this film. The sense of sorrow witnesses have at the brutal death that is to be faced by a girl so young, so brilliant, so sweet, and so innocent is almost beyond expession. Even Queen Mary (I hesitate to call her "Bloody Mary" when her father killed more people and has more flattering nicknames ascribed to him only because he had better P.R.)must have sensed that hers would not be a blessed reign as a result of her having to execute her own cousin in order to marry a Spanish King and restore England to Catholicism.
Frances Brandon Grey is shown curtseying to the Queen who has just executed her daughter and who would soon execute her husband. Ironically, she would become a court favorite with the Queen. But there is some sense of justice in the fact that history has not been kind to Jane Grey's parents.
Trevor Nunn has given the world a sharp, glistening, stately, and lavish production filled with a great sense of period and place. Whatever inconsistancies this film may have with history,its loving homage to Jane Grey is well-paid.
on October 20, 2003
I too was a teenager when I first saw this movie, at the time I was really starting to fall in love with the Renaissance. (I ultimately studied Renaissance lit in college, and maybe this movie had a little bit to do with that!)
At my young age, I was of course drawn to the romantic part of the story--I was hopelessly enchanted with Cary Elwes, and I'm sure the blossoming romance between Guildford and Jane caused me a great many sighs. Okay, so it is a little fairy-taleish and not exactly true to history (I once read that it is uncertain whether or not their marriage was ever consummated) but it was awfully fun to watch.
Now that I'm older, however, I've noticed some other things that interest me more than the love story, like the political machinations of Northumberland and Jane's parents, and the stark portrayal of the treatment of women in that time period. Jane was vitally important to the plans of her parents, and yet they beat her nearly senseless for refusing to marry Guildford Dudley.
Helena Bonham Carter and Cary Elwes are very believable in their roles--Jane seems otherworldly and disconnected from her feelings due to her obsession with learning; Guildford is a handsome rake who does actually have deep thoughts and ideas about things, contrary to what Jane thinks at first. Both roles were excellently played.
on March 14, 2003
Helena Bonham Carter stars as the young girl who for nine days was Queen of England. Lady Jane Grey was Henry VIII's niece and a staunch Protestant. Through political machinations, the dying King Edward (a teenager) makes his cousin Jane his successor, not the legitimate choice, his very Catholic sister Mary. Jane is forced into an arranged marriage to facilitate the move and soon finds herself on a throne she never wanted. Her husband gives her much support, and the two decide to make changes that will benefit the long suffering common man. But Mary will not be denied her throne (and neither will her husband, the Spanish king). Queen Jane is removed and condemned to death, quite a common fate back then. The acting is tops, with Bonham Carter and Cary Elwes as her husband delivering excellent performances, surrounded by a cast of pros. The sets, costumes, and other period details are terrific as well. I wasn't expecting to see a romance film, which is what this movie develops into. It's not very accurate, although the actors have a great chemistry and make it work. I was expecting to see more of the political behind-the-scenes treachery, since the story of Lady Jane is rooted in religious conflict and personal ambition. The politics of Tudor England are fascinating, and this film certainly deals with the political and religious climate, but I would like to have seen more. Nonetheless, the film is well made and serves as a solid introduction to that critical time in English history.
on February 18, 2006
History, so it seems, does not make good stuff for movies, so moviemakers tend to add bits of their own invention to make it all palatable to the moviegoing audience. In the case of poor little Jane Grey, one might just wish that her desperate and short life would at least have offered the comfort of such a passionate marriage as she gets here - which, alas, it didn't. Played out as a pawn in an elaborate succession ploy cooked up by her father-in-law, Jane was forced to marry a dispicable man, became queen for 9 days, and then, thanks to an inconceivably stupid eleventh hour rebellion by her father, went to the block with a calm dignity belying her mere 16 years. This movie has the gist of it, and makes for over two hours of good, solid entertainment. As costume drama goes, it is caught somewhere halfway between Errol Flynn and the BBC Virgin Queen. Sets and costumes are sumptuous if not quite historically correct (dresses, for instance, did not have all-round bodices, but were assembled from lots of bits and pieces pinned to the undergarments). Clearly, costumes were chosen for their dramatic effect, and as such work very well. Splendid Queen Mary in her red dress looks almost like Disney's witch Malificent, and the all white winter hunting party is very stylish indeed (though Star Trek reminiscenses are inevitable when Patrick Stewart appears in his stylized Tudor garments).
The acting is altogether quite good, with Bonham Carter, unsurprisingly, taking the laurels. Elwes does all he can with the heavily romanticized version of Guildford Dudley on offer in this script. It is hardly his fault that the rapid transformation from dissolute drunkard and whoremonger into ardent lover and idealistic defender of the poor does not come across as quite believable (he does better with the drunkard than with the idealist, by the way). Sara Kestelman is excellent as Jane's cruel and selfisch mother, and John Wood even better as the sinister, scheming Northumberland. Warren Saire deserves mention too, for his sympathetic and moving portrayal of the doomed King Edward VI. Jane Lapotaire brings subtlety to Queen Mary's character, and succeeds in making it felt that this queen isn't up for a very happy reign either.
This is a quiet movie, with a slow pace, that is carried by the believable chemistry between the two leads. It communicates a strong sense of the cruelty of those days, when death and disgrace were always lurking around the corner and individual fates counted for nothing. It does not eschew the cliché, to which it occassionally succumbs in rather silly ways (e.g., Jane muses on her impending death and a flock of birds flies by). The music is horribly bombastic and at times quite misplaced. Yet none of this results in serious damage, and the end, featuring a minute reconstruction of Jane's execution, may well leave you a little shaken; - the image of the blindfolded young girl desperatly groping for the block, is quite unsettling. In all, a worthwhile and interesting movie.
on July 6, 2003
I have loved this movie ever since I first saw it at 15. It made me fall in love with Cary Elwes and Helena Bonham Carter, both superb actors who should get more credit (and more roles!). I love the story, although it is tragic, albeit romantic at the same time. It does not bother me that it is in some respect historically inaccurate. So is "Braveheart" and that is my favorite movie of all time. The important thing is this movie made me want to know more, and since first seeing it I have become obsessed with English royalty and history. It is also a very well acted, well written, and well directed historical drama with beautiful costumes. Highly recommended to those who love a movie that's well done.
on March 23, 2006
I own this film on VHS and it's one of the jewels of my collection. I've been a Tudor fan and a Lady Jane Grey fan ever since I watched "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" on CBS in the summer of 1971. I first saw "Lady Jane" in 1986 in the theater and never forgot it. Yes, the movie's not accurate in its depiction of Jane Grey and Guilford Dudley, but I was so happy to finally see a movie about her that it didn't bother me, and the couple's ultimate fate was devastating; it resonated deeply with me. I loved the film then and I love it now (especially with Patrick Stewart in a supporting role as Jane's father, Duke Henry Grey).
on November 16, 2001
As long as you aren't a history purist and don't mind plenty of dramatic license, this is a great movie. This was Helena Bonham Carter's first feature film. She was as brilliant then as she is now. The story centers on the life of Lady Jane, who was named as the successor to Henry VIII's sickly son, Edward. Jane, a devout protestant, is forced into the role by her scheming parents in their attempt to reject the return of Catholicism that the rightful heir, Mary, would bring. Their plot begins with the forced marriage to Guilford Dudley, played by Cary Elwes. What begins as a battle develops into a beautiful love story, only to be torn apart again when Mary returns to claim her throne. I've seen this movie dozens of times and it still makes me cry.