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Other Boleyn Girl, The


Stars: Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana, Kristin Scott Thomas, Mark Rylance, David Morrissey, Jim Sturgess

Director: Justin Chadwick

After three Australians in the disappointing Elizabeth sequel, here's two Americans and an Australian in what you might call a prequel. And it's even worse. Dull, wordy, flairlessly directed, and with an uninspired script that undermines even Morrissey's quiet menace as the scheming Duke of Norfollk, this finds Henry VIII (Bana) dissatisfied with his Spanish wife (excellent Ana Torrent), who has failed to bear him a son.

The ambitious Boleyns (Rylance, Scott Thomas) plan to use the king's coming visit to their ancestral home as a platform to instal their wilful older daughter Anne (Portman) as the king's mistress. But when the headstrong Anne leads Henry to fall from his horse on a stag hunt, it's her younger sister Mary (Johansson), just married to the weak William Carey (another rotten role for Benedict Cumberbatch) who tends his wounds.

The king commands her presence at court, and they become lovers, Mary quickly falling pregnant. But, as Henry loses interest in her (ironically, she will bear him a son), Anne, her own marriage annulled and newly confident after a spell at the French court, bewitches him.

Although not helped by stilted dialogue, the leading actors are not up to their roles - Portman coming closest to being adequate - and the film drones on heavily to its inevitable conclusion, leaving us to muse on how different history might have been had Henry married Mary and legitimised his male heir - always supposing, of course, that this is more fact than fiction.

David Quinlan

UK/USA 2008. UK Distributor: Universal (Universal/Columbia/Focus/BBC Films). Colour by deluxe.
114 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 01 Mar 2008