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The Boleyn family jewels, Anne and Mary (Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson), are the currency that will buy the fading family prestige and financial security - if they are married off to the right people. None is more right than the King of England, Henry VIII (Eric Bana), whose Spanish arranged wife Katherine of Aragon (Ana Torrent) has failed to produce a living male heir. Their uncle, the Duke of Norfolk (David Morrissey), the master schemer, connives with their father Sir Thomas (Mark Rylance) - under the skeptical eye of their mother Lady Elizabeth Boleyn (Kristin Scott Thomas) - to offer the King Anne's favours, with the long term ambition of snaring him not just in the bed but on the throne. But the plan is derailed when Henry falls for Mary and soon England is thrust into internal and international conflict.

Review by Louise Keller:
There are a few flaws including historical inaccuracies, but the spirited jousting of Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson as the Boleyn Sisters tantalises and tempts us royally. The Other Boleyn Girl is a cinematically told, sumptuous historic drama that hones on the little known story of the sisterly rivalry between the ill-fated Anne Boleyn and her younger sister Mary. Thrown by their ambitious family into the sightlines of the much married Henry VIII's roving eye as if simply attractive fodder for the financial security of the family, the film focuses on the chalk and cheese nature of the two sisters, as they bed the same man, but whose natures set them apart. Based on a novel by Philippa Gregory, Justin Chadwick's film concentrates on the human story whereas the relationships; politics, religion, beheadings and matters of state figure in the latter half.

So enjoyable are Portman and Johansson's feisty performances, we can forgive the inconsistencies of their English accents. 'Love is of no value without power and position,' Portman's Anne tells Johansson's Mary, as she betrays and uses her own sister in order to satisfy her own ambitions. It comes as somewhat of a shock that families effectively sold their daughters for their own gain, and David Morrissey is convincing as the despicable uncle who conspires firstly for Anne, then subsequently for Mary. Even the oversize costuming which aspires to give Eric Bana the illusion of resembling the physique of the portly monarch does not really convince, although Bana brings enough complexity into the role as the pitifully weak man. Forget murmuring sweet nothings in the ears of the women he seduces, it seems he only needs to mutter the word 'tonight' in order for the green light to be switched on. Backstabbing has never had so sharp a knife as Anne's relationship with her sweet-hearted sister. 'Do you feel as bad as you look,' is one of the lines that Anne spits at Mary, as the latter lies in confinement for months on end, waiting for the birth of her child.

Despite the contrivance of the situation, there's something innocent and charming about Mary's seduction by the King; whereas Anne's by contrast is violent and shameful. Both however, experience a devastating disappointment after giving birth at which moment they become vulnerable and out of control of their own destinies. Cinematography, costumes and production design are all tops, and although at times it may feel like a melodrama, there is enough rope to pull us along and we are immersed into the era.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
I suspect the real Boleyn sisters didn't look anything like Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson, but that isn't really the point of this engaging and entertaining historical drama. Littered with historical accuracies (author Philippa Gregory is a historian), the film is nonetheless a work of fiction, imagining how the drama of a love quadrangle split the English Church from Rome might have played out behind closed doors and inside the broken hearts. The human dimension of the circumstances is what gives Gregory's novel and Peter Morgan's screen adaptation its dynamics.

Natalie Portman delivers perhaps her best performance to date, rich and layered, complex with all the qualities that make us humans so damned irritating yet likeable. She is manipulative and loving with her sister, she is extremely ambitious and yet remorseful - although she does have very good reason to be. Her head.

Scarlett Johansson plays the younger, plainer sister who nevertheless inadvertently sets the King - and later all England - on fire. It soon becomes a sibling rivalry that not only breaks all their hearts, the King's included, but England's too.

Peter Morgan's screenplay favours the two sisters, and the actresses take full advantage. Eric Bana is lumbered with a few dud bits of dialogue, but he still creates a Henry whose motivations, fears and betrayal are all on show, making the emotional plot gripping. David Morrissey is outstanding as the manipulative Duke of Norfolk, and Kristin Scott Thomas is wonderful as Lady Boleyn, a woman with quite modern sensibilities and a matter of fact nature that is most appealing.

Beautifully designed and superbly shot on HD, the film is blessed with a marvellous and tasteful orchestral score.

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(UK/US, 2008)

CAST: Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana, Jim Sturgess, Mark Rylance, Kristin Scott Thomas, David Morrissey, Benedict Cumberbatch, Oliver Coleman, Ana Torrent, Eddie Redmayne

PRODUCER: Alison Owen, Scott Rudin

DIRECTOR: Justin Chadwick

SCRIPT: Peter Morgan (novel by Philippa Gregory)


EDITOR: Paul Knight, Carol Littleton


RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes



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