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The Other Boleyn Girl (2003 BBC Version)
The Other Boleyn Girl
2003 BBC Version
Actors: Natascha McElhone, Jodhi May, Jared Harris, Steven Mackintosh, Philip Glenister
Director: Philippa Lowthorpe
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television
UR     2008     1hr 30min

An extraordinary tale of sex, passion and royal intrigue. This is the little-known story of Mary Boleyn who was mistress to King Henry VIII before he married her older sister, Anne. Inspired by Philippa Gregory's best sell...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Natascha McElhone, Jodhi May, Jared Harris, Steven Mackintosh, Philip Glenister
Director: Philippa Lowthorpe
Creators: Philippa Lowthorpe, Alex Holmes, David M. Thompson, Luke Alkin, Michas Kotz, Ruth Caleb, Philippa Gregory
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Period Piece, Family Life, All Made-for-TV Movies
Studio: BBC Warner
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 10/21/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/2003
Theatrical Release Date: 03/04/2003
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 1hr 30min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

The king's women
E. A Solinas | MD USA | 01/07/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Hollywood is releasing a new adaptation of Phillipa Gregory's "The Other Boleyn Girl," so unsurprisingly the older BBC adaptation is also (finally) seeing the light of American day.

And it's a pleasant, intimate little look at the difficult world of women in Tudor England. It's hampered by what is obviously a very low budget, but Jodhi May and Jared Harris turn in performances that knock it a few notches higher. Seriously, they're both amazing.

While serving Queen Katherine, Mary Boleyn (Natascha McElhone) catches the eye of King Henry VIII (Jared Harris), and soon her scheming, power-hungry family has shoved her into his bed. Initially she's horrified and ashamed, but soon finds that she's starting to fall in love with the charming king.

Meanwhile, Mary catches her sister Anne (Jodhi May) in bed with an engaged courtier, and the disgraced girl is sent away. When Anne returns, Mary is pregnant, and the Boleyn family is afraid of losing Henry's favor. But when he meets Anne, Henry immediately drops Mary, and becomes enraptured by the ambitious, frank young girl.

But Anne's one mistake -- and exile -- have hardened her, and she's determined not to be the "king's whore" like her sister, but his wife. Amid a storm of angry protest, Henry divorces his wife and marries Anne. But when she gives birth to another daughter, her position begins to slip...

"The Other Boleyn Girl" is not an epic movie -- it's more of a Tudor chick-flick. The big issues (women's reduced rights, splitting from the Catholic Church, poor Katherine of Aragon) are pushed to the background, in favor of a more intimate look at two young women's lives.

The direction is something of a hit-and-miss -- there are some lovely moments, like Mary's moment in the church when she realizes who she's in love with, or Anne's tantrum in front of the court. And Philippa Lowthorpe really gets across what a woman's life would have been like in the Tudor court, as well as the controversial idea that Anne really WAS guilty of incest. Unlikely, but interesting in fiction.

But the sets and costumes look a bit low-budget for the sumptuous Tudor era -- this is glaringly obvious in Katherine's chambers, which look like they were assembled hastily on a soundstage. And for some reason, the characters keep talking to the camera as if they're in a reality show.

What pulls this above "average"? That would be the acting. McElhone gives a graceful, understated performance, but May is the real powerhouse here -- her Anne fills the screen as a vibrant, passionate young woman who is burned by her family's ambition. And Harris is simply amazing as the young Henry -- not a bloated, diseased wreck, but a charming and athletic young monarch.

"The Other Boleyn Girl" is a rather mediocre TV movie that is given a massive boost by a trio of talented actors, particularly Jodhi May. Just don't expect too much historical detail."
Compared to the American version
Elizabeth Wood | Clinton, IA USA | 04/15/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I feel that this movie, compared to the American version, follows the book a little bit more closely. When I saw the American version, I was appalled at how the movie did not follow the book in any manner. They made it seem like the whole part of history (several years worth) happen in 3 months. I will admit that the book is excellent, so it is hard for any movie adaptation to match up to that caliber. At least this movie tries."
The Other Adaptation
Diana F. Von Behren | Kenner, LA USA | 06/08/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)

"The story of the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn certainly has enjoyed a lot of exposure lately with two years of the Showtime series The Tudors - The Complete First Season full swing and the 2008 Hollywood adaptation of Philippa Gregory's novel, The Other Boleyn Girl, starring Natalie Portman as the ill-fated second wife of Henry VIII now released on DVD. With these money-generating Tudor-related vehicles generating such popularity, it comes as little surprise that an older once-televised version is now seeing the light of day. Be that as it may, I have grown weary with the actual telling of the tale in this instance. Or perhaps the fault lies in the production quality of the 2003 BBC version of the same story crafted by Ms. Gregory in her 500+ page novel. Whereas the Hollywood version sparkles with colorful jewel toned sets exemplifying the opulence of King Eric Bana's court and a bevy of model-esque beauties of the blonde, brunette and redhead categories statuesquely adorn the royal auspices of Jonathan Rhys Meyer's Pre-Elizabethan world, this 90 minute drama seems anemically plebian in comparison. Ultimately, however, the main fault seems to be in the selection of the piece's main character.

Although Natascha McElhone plays the part of Françoise Gilot, Picasso's live-in lover in the 1996 film Surviving Picasso with an initial ingénue quality that endears her to an audience anticipating her eventual seasoning as a woman, as Mary Boleyn, married sister of Anne, she fails to exude that fresh je-ne-sais-quoi that allows the Gregory character to win over her readers in spite of her human frailties. As her work in "Ronin" suggests, roles that require a little Mata Hari sophistication fit well with McElhone's physical appearance. However, despite the obvious conniving of the Boleyn family and its domino effect on its two daughters, the character of Mary requires more innocence--a quality Scarlett Johanson's lush renaissance beauty mirrors much better than McElhone's persona that exemplifies the attribute of sharp 21st century savvy.

On the other hand, Jodhi May, as Anne, radiates with a charm that certainly does not originate from her looks alone. At first glance and with the full understanding of the importance of male succession in 16th century life, we wonder how in the world someone as plain as Anne could entice a king away from his Church and his wife. Yet, May pulls this off without a hitch, embodying the enigmatic Anne and her apparent charm from the inside out in a much more subtle manner than the acclaimed Natalie Portman. While Portman projects the ultimate shrew in need of a spanking, only May's blazing eyes convey her wily ambition. Buttressed by her family's desire for power, she diverts from the truth with great finesse that seems second nature.

Jared Harris adequately portrays the young Henry incensed by what he cannot have. Much more low-key than Rhys Meyer's tantrum-throwing monarch, he gives one the sense of strength and confusion that seems appropriate for his predicament as the heirless tyrant.

Bottom line? If the story of Henry VIII and his wives never fails to entertain you, than this adaptation of the Philippa Gregory novel from across the pond may keep you in your seat for its playing time of ninety minutes. However, if you have become accustomed to the beautiful sets and people that populate the Showtime series, `The Tudors' and high profile actors that portray the same characters in Hollywood's version of "The Other Boleyn Girl," you will find this drab BBC presentation wanting in many ways. The technique of having the two main characters look soulfully into the camera and confess their thoughts diary-style breaks rather than sustains the story's momentum. Although a fully accomplished actress with a repertoire of fined performances, Natascha McElhone's Mary does not succeed in fully conveying every nuance of the character as depicted in the book. Recommended only for die-hard Tudor enthusiasts.
Diana Faillace Von Behren
Will the fans of this book NEVER get a faithful adaptation?
kaduzy | 12/03/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)

"I had high hopes for this production of "The Other Boleyn Girl" since it was done by the BBC, which usually means high standards if not high budgets. However, this 90 minute production fails in a number of ways. The major sore spot for me is the way the characters have been changed. Mary is depicted as being extremely religious, and guilty about her affair with the king on strictly moral grounds, but in the book it was her love of the Queen that kept her guilt at such high levels. I don't strictly care about changing something like that, since after all it's historical FICTON, and there's no way to really know how these people felt about anything, since they've been dead for so long. However, I don't see the point of calling it an adaptation of Gregory's book if they're going to change such basic things that would be simple to keep the same.

Casting is another serious problem. Natascha McElhone is far too old to play the part of Mary, who starts off in the book at the tender age of 12 and was only 14 when she began her affair with the king. She is obviously older than the actress playing her elder sister, Anne. And she's so much more beautiful (Sorry Jodhi May, but it's true!) that it's not very believable when the King throws her over for Anne.

The other problem is unfortunate, because it was an interesting idea that MIGHT have worked with a different approach to the execution, but fails quite utterly. The entire production is shot documentary style, with hand-held cameras and close-ups replacing the usual sweeping vistas and grand crane shots we've come to expect from period pieces. I had no problem with that, but I DID have a problem with the confessional interviews the actors did directly with the camera, as if they were all starring in a reality show called "The Real World: Tudor England edition" or something. (Actually, considering the eventual death toll, maybe "Survivor: Tudor England edition" would be a better title.) It's jarring to see 16th-century characters speak to an invention that didn't even exist in their era, and the script at these intervals is absolutely feeble.

Overall I think it's sad that such a magnificent book with so many rich things that could have soared onscreen has yet to be adapted in a way that truly captures its thrilling, majestic scope. Even with a Hollywood budget, it couldn't be done, so maybe it wasn't fair to expect any better from a BBC production. Still, hope springs eternal, and I will hope ardently that eventually someone finds a way to faithfully capture this story in a motion picture."