In the 1550s, following the death of King Henry VIII’s son, King Edward VI, there came a short time of tumultuous political jostling for the throne. On the one hand, the Princess Mary and her younger sister, Princess Elizabeth, were both the daughters of Henry VIII and considered the first and second in line for the throne. On the other, Lady Jane (Grey) Dudley, the niece of Henry VIII whom the conniving Duke of Northumberland convinced Edward VI to name his successor on Edward’s deathbed.
The story of Lady Jane (Helena Bonham Carter) picks up as she is being forced to marry Guilford Dudley (Carey Elwes), a drunk and the son of Northumberland. They both marry against their will, yet later manage to find love with each other – right before they’re thrown into the realities of their parents’ machinations. Jane is crowned queen, though she knows full well the realities of her position when the Princess Mary (Jane Lapotaire) turns to claim her throne.
I’d only read short summaries of the very short reign of Lady Jane, so I couldn’t resist when I saw a movie about the event starring a couple of my favorite actors. While it appears that many of the “filler facts” had to be fabricated in order to make a good story, director Trevor Nunn certainly managed to pull together an excellent, well-acted piece on “The Nine Days’ Queen.”
Especially considering that this movie was made in 1986, it had amazing production value in high-quality sets, elaborate costumes and top-notch acting. The film quality looks like a freshly-made movie, while the acting is reminiscent of the old classics from the days when people actually had to have acting talent to make it big.
Aside from the actors already mentioned, the cast boasts John Wood, Patrick Stewart, Joss Ackland, Jill Bennett and more. Personally, it was Helena Bonham Carter that stood out to me in the cast as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed her more recent performances and wished to see something from earlier in her career. In this, only the third movie of her career, Bonham Carter’s talent was already shining. Her character progresses from very childish to aged beyond her years in the short time covered, showing every imaginable emotion in each stage. The role was played to perfection, and I noted some great on-screen chemistry between her and Elwes’ character.
Actually, as far as acting, this movie left nothing to be desired. Each part was well-cast and each actor exceptionally well-chosen. Both old and new talent (at the time) were expertly picked and combined to create a truly breathtaking telling of the tale.
Pacing was also done well, which was something I had wondered about prior to watching the film. Because the movie covers nearly a year in the beginning and then must gracefully segue into an eventful nine days, followed by a less eventful stretch of time, I was really curious to see how it was handled. Again, I was pleasantly surprised in how artfully the passage of time was displayed, keeping the story moving steadily while still giving proper attention to the important details.
There is a bit of nudity in the movie as well as some mild violence, though no foul language. Other than a couple of parts, it is a fairly family-friendly film.
Overall, this is a truly excellent historical drama, though expect it to be fairly loosely based on history. Where possible, the historical accuracy has been maintained. Unfortunately, Lady Jane was not a particularly well-known or long-lived historical figure, so not all of it could be well-grounded in fact. However, if you’re a fan of period pieces or a good tragic romance, this is a great movie for you.