107 of 108 people found the following review helpful
on 28 May 2006
I don't remember this film at all when it came out and I don't remember it ever being shown on TV, which is a real shame as I think it deserves a wider audience. There are some very fine performances notably from Helena Bonham Carter and Cary Elwes. The acting, costumes and script are generally very good but I found the musical score a little overbearing at times.
The scheming and ambitious John Dudley Duke of Northumberland is the vilain of the piece. He convinces the dying king Edward to change Henry VIII's will and disinherit his sisters Mary and Elizabeth and name Lady Jane as his successor. In my view too little is seen of the young King Edward VI and his sister Mary. Mary is seen giving an early warning to Jane but is next seen riding in triumph to London when Jane's reign is finished. Some other parts of the plot could have been fleshed out a little rather then concentrating on the romance between Jane and Northumberland's son Guildford Dudley.
The idealism of the young queen and her husband make the viewer sympathetic to them. Jane's parents are also shown as ruthless ambitious and greedy, her mother the Duchess of Suffolk portrayed as particulary cruel and unfeeling.
All in all I really enjoyed this film and would strongly recommend it.
67 of 69 people found the following review helpful
This excellent historical drama charts the life of Lady Jane Grey who was illegally declared Queen of England following the death of Edward V1, reigned for nine days and eventually executed.
The political intriguing are accurate, as well as Jane’s relationship with her parents, as is the scene where she is declared Queen.
Helena Bonham Carter is a perfect choice for Jane and bears a considerable likeness to a portrait of her, and Cary Elwes is excellent as her husband Guildford Dudley. The scenes between them are irresistible as they move from antagonism to love, and the last hour they are allowed together the night before their executions is devastating. Unfortunately their relationship in the film is almost certainly inaccurate, probably a complete reverse of the truth, additionally Jane’s confinement in the Tower is well documented and there is no mention anywhere of them meeting when imprisoned. However it would be a flinty hearted historian that begrudged us this touching love story, for once I say to hell with history.
The film is a feast of fine acting, sets and costumes, photography and direction. For all lovers of historical films this is a must.
60 of 62 people found the following review helpful
This film tells the story of Lady Jane Grey, the cousin of King Edward VI, who at the age of 16 was put on the throne of England by her scheming uncles in an attempt to prevent the accession of the Catholic Queen Mary. the plot failed and Lady Jane was executed.
Brilliant acting by Helena Bonham Carter in one of her first roles as Lady Jane. Not the most historically accurate version of the story ever written, but it's a well produced and deeply moving film and deserved much more commercial success than it had.
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 7 August 2011
This film gave Helena Bonham-Carter her first starring role and she is very, very good in it and it is clear why she was picked up and moved up to the big league. She captures the learned petulance of Jane Gray very well and also shows her for the innocent victim that she was. The film is littered with big name RSC actors who give very BIG and rather theatrical performances and the script - by RSC writer David Edgar - is also very theatrical in its nature none of which is surprising when you look at the name of the director.
This is an enjoyable film even though one does feel one is rather watching a stage play that has been filmed and it is historically accurate in many ways except for one crucial and vital way: this film becomes, essentially, a love story between Guildford Dudley and Jane Gray and the second half of the film depends on this for its emotional weight. The problem is that they actually hated each other and spent about ten minutes in each others' company througout the entirity of their short and tragic marriage. Historical inaccuracy shouldn't really impact upon the enjoyment of a film but here it does because it detracts from Jane's true tragedy which was that every aspect of her life was rubbish. Here, the redemption of her joyful marriage create a very different sort of tragedy.
36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on 25 November 2006
This is an excellent film, and I'm amazed I've never come across it before - just came on it by chance while browsing. I'm very interested in the Tudor period but didn't know a great deal about Lady Jane Grey, and I'm not sure how accurate it is, but I found it absorbing and very moving. Helena Bonham-Carter and Carys Elwes were superb as Jane and Guildford. It really brought home to me how tenuous life was in those days if you were close to the throne, and it was clear that Jane and Guildford were used as pawns in what was a (failed) attempt to avoid England returning to Catholicism following the death of Edward VI. But it was also a love story, with these two young people, still in their teens, forced very much against their wills to marry for political reasons, disliking each other intensely and then falling in love. Obviously their fate was known by the viewer from the outset, but it didn't make it any less sad when the inevitable happened. Mary I did not come out of this well, but of course this was just the start as far as she was concerned - she didn't get the title 'Bloody Mary' for nothing!
I highly recommend this film, and it's a pity is seems to have such a low profile, when we see so many films based on the life of Henry VIII and his many wives.
39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
First a bit of history:
The world of the Tudors and their friends, hangers-on and rivals from the time of Lancaster/York conflict, reads like a soap opera, and indeed it was a time of intrigue, deception, jockeying for position and occasional outright evil behaviour. The executioner's task at the Tower was never wanting for more; the Tudors, Seymours, Brandons, Dudleys and other such families were intertwined in the political, religious and dynastic machinations of the time, and sometimes this late medieval machinery caught up the people as it would grind along.
Lady Jane Grey was not born to be queen. This does not make her unique among monarchs in British history; when the current queen Elizabeth was born, it seemed very remote that she should ever advance to be monarch. Indeed, even the great Henry VIII wasn't the heir apparent when born; his brother Arthur was Prince of Wales -- Henry married his brother's widow Catherine of Aragon, and the successive sequence of wives and offspring commenced from there. Lady Jane Grey was born of none of these wives, nor even from Henry directly, but rather through one of his younger siblings, Mary, one-time queen of France.
Lady Jane Grey was a mere teenager when she came to power, such as it was. A precocious and intellectual child, she still lacked the political savvy of the Privy Council and other chief executors and leaders from Henry and Edward's reigns; she was the not-always-willing but not-unwilling pawn of her family's ambitions -- at one time thought to be a possible wife for the king Edward, her family jumped at the chance of settling the crown directly on her head, under the ostensible purpose of preserving a Protestant succession.
Ultimately, the venture was doomed to failure, for as much as the royal and parliamentary authorities like to believe they rule England, ultimately it has been the people en masse, and those whom they do not support do not last long. The common folk, still largely Catholic in leaning, also understood royal succession in simple terms -- Mary Tudor was the next in line for the throne, so they supported her (largely they would support Elizabeth, a moderate Protestant, for the same reason five years later). Lady Jane fell victim again to the problems of politics; Mary Tudor, once queen, was inclined to be lenient until it was felt that Jane's presence continued to be a rallying point for Protestant dissidents.
Jane Grey was queen for nine short days, during a period of great turmoil.
Here endeth the lesson. And much of the similarity with the film.
This film is historical romance, which makes it necessary to fudge the facts a bit. We are introduced to the scheming people around the ailing teen-aged king Edward; John Dudley (played admirably by John Wood) as Duke of Northumberland tries to ensure the Protestant succession through ruling out Mary, but also tries to secure his own hegemony by ruling out the independent Elizabeth. Lady Jane could be controlled, or so promised her mother, Frances Grey, Duchess of Suffolk (played by Sara Kestelman). Patrick Stewart plays Lady Jane's father, the Duke of Suffolk, but his role here is rather understated.
Truly the best performance in the film is that of Helena Bonham-Carter, in one of her early roles (fresh from the Merchant-Ivory production, 'A Room with a View'). She plays the intelligent but not always swift-on-the-uptake Lady Jane, competent in academic subjects, scrupulously moral, and history's plaything. Whether all of these descriptors were true of the actual Lady Jane, we cannot know. What we do know is that Lady Jane in fact despised her arranged husband Guildford Dudley, younger son of the manipulative Duke of Northumberland. However, for purposes of the film, this is a romance, rocky at the start, but nonetheless a love affair that blossoms quickly - well, it would have to, given the time frame. Cary Elwes, in his first major role, performs well as the companion to the unlikely and unwilling queen.
Elwes and Bonham-Carter have good chemistry together on the screen for the most part. Bonham-Carter's other primary relationship is brief but substantial in the form of an intellectual attachment to the kindly Dr. Feckenham, a Catholic clergyman who is willing to engage in the theological discussion with a Protestant; Michael Horden gives a memorable performance as the intercessor between the Greys and Mary Tudor.
The cinematography is very good, stunning in a few points. Costumes and sets are well done, and music overlay is worthwhile.
The story progresses through an abbreviated presentation of King Edward's illness, leading to the necessity for succession. The various intrigues and issues are collapsed into a few, primarily dominated by Northumberland; the ambassador of Spain and his dealings with Queen Mary also factor into the plot. The impoverishment of the people, and the lack of popularity the ruling class had at the time is shown; the Protestant Reformations in England were not popular movements at the start.
As history dictates, both the younger Dudley and Lady Jane, nine-day queen, lose their heads over the affair. We are given a glimpse of the historical reality that Lady Jane's mother was in fact 'rehabilitated' into the court of Queen Mary, but her husband Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, is killed for his involvement in an uprising against Queen Mary.
Setting aside the historical inaccuracies, this is a good film, well produced and well acted, and does serve to highlight some of the major historical themes of the time. Perhaps it will inspire the viewer to read more and learn the actual events of the time, one of the more colourful in royal history.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
One of the most interesting instances of genetic and gender in the history of Western Civilization is found with the death of King Edward VI of England at the age of 15 in 1553. Too young to leave heirs, his older half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth Tudor were both considered illegitimate because of the martial history of their father Henry VIII. Going through the Tudor family the only other potential claimants, Mary of Scotland and Lady Jane Grey, were also female. It seemed that God that determined that a woman would sit on the throne of England and the political question was who that woman would be. The one with the best claim was Mary Tudor, but she was a devout Catholic and the creation of the Anglican Church had created a religious schism in England that would turn ugly with her on the throne.
Lady Jane first became connected with the English crown as a potential mate for young Edward, who was more interested in Mary of Scotland or another foreign princess. Jane was supposedly betrothed to the duke of Somerset's son, Lord Hertford, but was then informed by her parents that she was to wed Guildford Dudley, the youngest son of the duke of Northumberland. Handsome and only one year her senior, Jane did not like him and refused the marriage until her mother literally beat her into submission. The couple were married in May of 1553 and lived apart, although the marriage was consummated the following month at the expressed command of Northumberland. Jane was then informed that she had been named Edward's heir three days before the king's death. Northumberland kept Edward's death a secret in order to stop Mary Tudor from claiming the crown and made a speech announcing Jane was the new queen. Forced to accept the title, Jane dismissed the idea that her husband would be made king. When Northumberland went forth with his army to meet that of Mary, who was marching on London, the royal council declared Mary queen and Jane's own father signed the declaration. On November 13 Jane and Guildford we tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. Jane believed the Queen would pardon her, but the revolt against Mary by Sir Thomas Wyatt in February 1554 hardened her heart against her enemies. Within days Guildford was executed, with Jane being beheaded on February 11th.
None of this historical information consistutes a spoiler because anyone familiar with the kings and queens of England knows that there was never a Queen Jane and even those unfamiliar with the specifics of English history will be aware early on that this is going to be a tragic tale. Even so, the 1986 film "Lady Jane" from director Trevor Nunn would more properly be considered a historical romance, with the emphasis more on the romance than the history as the marriage between Jane (Helena Bonham Carter) and Guilford (Cary Elwes) is turned into a tragic love story. Jane is presented as an intellectual (you would like to see her and Elizabeth Tudor have a conversation), and given a sense of nobility in that she and her husband apparently intend to rule in their own names, not only because it will thwart the plans of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland (John Wood), but also because it is the right thing to do. In bed they tend to talk about their idealistic plans, such as not branding men or sending them into slavery because they are starving.
This new version of Lady Jane's marriage and her new found political ambitions work to add to the tragedy of her execution at the hands of Bloody Mary, even though her being an unwilling pawn in the machinations of some one else's power games makes her enough of a tragic figure. You have to appreciate the irony that these two privileged children of the British class system were idealistic friends of the common folk. The cast features the standard collection of British character actors, with Michael Hordern as Doctor Feckenham, Mary's teacher, Jane Lapotaire as Princess Mary, Joss Ackland as Sir John Bridges, and Sara Kestleman as Frances Grey, Duchess of Suffolk and Jane's mother. For me the low moment in the film is when Jane is betrayed by her father, especially since Patrick Stewart plays Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk. Of course, both Bonham Carter and Elwes have gone on to much better films, although I was surprised that she made this after "A Room With a View," one of those much better films. "Lady Jane" runs a bit long, especially given that Jane's "reign" only lasted nine days, and while the fictional romance has its moments I would hope that one day the bleak reality of what happened to this young girl becomes the subject of another film.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The acting is superb and makes you feel that you are part of the action. However you do feel like telling them what to do or say. The story is loosely based on a sixteen-year-old girl Lady Jane Grey (Helena Bonham Garter) on the throne of England for just nine days in 1553, and how everyone tries to manipulate her.
The genealogy behind this can get quite complex but the story is strait forward. Naturally the costumes and scenery add to the movie. If there was any music I did not notice it.
For those who want historical accuracy, go watch a documentary. That does not make this anything less than great entertainment. It has religion for the religious, love fort the loveless, and teaches us to stick our neck out for our principles.
Did I mention that this is an engrossing film?
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 6 February 2006
This ranks, for me, among the best of all the romantic films out there. Rarely have I seen a period piece so moving. By the end of this film I was a jibbering wreck!
The cast are excellent in their roles, most notably the two leads, Helena Bonham Carter and Cary Elwes.
Even though this is Probably not the most accurate account of Lady Jane's fate, it is still highly enjoyable.
I strongly recommend it!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 29 July 2012
The film is strong on the ruthless politicking in which the likes of the more or less guile-less Jane were caught up. However, it does go on a bit, and there is much that is fanciful. The deep intense relationship between Jane and Guildford has not the slightest historical foundation, and neither does their utopian plan to improve the lot of the poor and make everything harmonious in the kingdom.
It's a good story, only weakened in my view by the intrusion of somebody's overactive imagination. I don't think the film does justice to its subject.