Review for The Other Boleyn Girl
Once in a while, an odd mood comes upon me. Sometimes I just want to watch a film that I don’t want to watch. You might think that’s a little bizarre, but I guess it’s a holdover from when MyReviewer check discs were distributed at random instead of us reviewers requesting them directly, and that meant that we got the occasional lucky dip, the pleasant surprise, or just the unexpected. You might think that broadcast television would suit my purposes, but the presence of adverts, coupled with the absence of a pause button renders it just a little too inconvenient. But, the pound shop delivers where other means fail. Sometimes I do pick up titles at random, but they then linger on my to-watch pile while other films get first pick. But then a day like yesterday happens, I’m in the mood for something completely different, and I would never normally watch a historical costume drama through choice. So The Other Boleyn Girl it was.
Henry VIII is renowned for having six wives and several mistresses in his pursuit of a male heir and favourable political alliances. Anne Boleyn is perhaps the most memorable of his spouses, his second wife; a marriage which sparked off the reformation and gave rise to the Church of England. Anne Boleyn also had a sister, Mary who ever so briefly caught the king’s eye. This is their story; a family’s lust for power and position that destined both daughters for the king’s bed, and for one the executioner’s blade.
The Other Boleyn Girl gets a 1.85:1 widescreen 1080p transfer with DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround English, DTS 5.1 Surround French, Italian, Spanish, German, and Russian, with subtitles in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Dutch, and Korean. The image is clear and sharp, colours are rich and consistent, and there’s no issue with compression. This is a digitally shot film, but black levels are really good, and contrast is decent. This is a lavish film with a wonderful red, gold and green colour palette. The film looks like Tudor artwork come to life. The sets are brilliant, the locations are perfect and the costumes are sublime when it comes to colour and detail, and this transfer shows it all off wonderfully. The audio is fine; the dialogue clear for the most part and the music suits the story well. You might start picking nits with the three leads’ accents, but who knows how people really spoke five hundred years ago?
You get one disc in a BD Amaray which boots to an animated menu and that’s your lot.
This is a quintessentially English story, co-produced by BBC Films yet the UK release of The Other Boleyn Girl is barebones. It may be a Universal Region free disc, but for some daft reason they didn’t use the same disc worldwide.
If you love this film, import a Scandinavian release, as according to DVD Compare, that at least has extra features like a commentary, featurettes and deleted scenes. The US disc is similarly loaded but locked to Region A.
I won’t be importing The Other Boleyn Girl for the extra features, and neither am I compelled to re-watch this film anytime soon. It really does look the part, with beautiful production design and engaging cinematography, but when it comes to the story, it’s little more than a royal soap opera. Given that we’re currently awaiting Season 6 of The Crown, it’s clear that fans love a royal soap opera, and The Other Boleyn Girl makes classic potboilers like Dallas and Dynasty pale in comparison; helped in no small regard by the veneer of genuine history.
Be aware however that The Other Boleyn Girl is about as historically accurate as Braveheart was, and it plays fast and loose with dramatic license and a fluid and compressed chronology. That is one problem that I did have with the film, as it felt as if a ten year timeline was compressed down to just two or three, and I just didn’t get a sense of the passage of time in the story.
What also disappointed me was just how thin the characterisations were. Complex individuals were simplified to a single motivation; Henry’s libidinous pursuit of a male heir, Anne’s lust for power, innocent Mary’s victimhood. This is the pinnacle of England’s ruling classes; there has to be more to the characters than just this, yet little is made of the court politics of the era, unless it’s sexual politics. The start of the film is a lot more interesting when the Boleyn family as a whole takes centre stage, and their collective lust for power and position is a bigger driving force, but towards the end of the film their impact is lessened.
For all the soap opera antics that do unfold, the event that triggers the demise of Anne Boleyn (is a spoiler alert really necessary at this point?) is one moment that throws me out of the film. With a king with ultimate power, free to trump up any charge to rid him of an unsuitable wife, would he really need justification by an actual act? For me it’s one soap element too far.
It’s a period of history that is far more important and far more meaningful than this story portrays it to be. The story has the confined and limited sense of a stage play adapted to film, and the tale of Henry and his wives has been told many times before, and more effectively. The Other Boleyn Girl has its moments, and tells its story in an engaging enough way, but I really shouldn’t have been distracted by thoughts of Blackadder II, or Carry On Henry while watching it. This barebones Blu-ray is solid enough in the picture and audio department, but you’ll have to import if you want supplemental features.