Lady Jane

1986. 136 minutes. Rated PG-13.

”The soul takes flight to the world that is invisible. At there arriving, she is assured of bliss, and forever dwells in paradise.”

Married at 16. Queen for 9 days. Beheaded for treason at age 17. And you thought your teenage years were rough! Protestant Lady Jane (Helena Bonham Carter), cousin to the ailing King Edward, is but a pawn in her parent’s political games when the Duke of Northumberland (John Wood), the most powerful man in the country (what, you thought kings had power???) convinces Jane’s parents to wed her to his youngest son, Lord Guilford Dudley (Cary Elwes). They will be well-matched and easily manipulated in a plot to keep Mary from the throne–or so the elders think.

Things I love:

The Idealism

Guildford, a cynic, educates naive Jane about why the peasants are idle and bitter, and when their discussion ends in a shouting match, apologizes to her and tries to listen, really listen, to what she believes and feels. They discover they have similar ideas, and express their socialist desires in a plethora of satisfying glass smashing (and a colossal waste of good wine). When the King dies and names Jane heir to the throne, guaranteeing her parents and the Duke the power they crave, Jane admirably and unexpectedly uses her title to try to affect real change for the lower classes. She remains true to her beliefs throughout, and cannot be broken. Her convictions are admirable.

The Romance

Romeo and Juliet have nothing on these two. Their relationship starts out hostile, as neither wishes to marry; Jane politely requests a “cousinly” relationship, and Guilford tries to shock his betrothed with tales of a drunken evening with a lady of the night. He plays the cad, winking at dancers on their wedding night, then falls asleep before their marriage can be consummated. Away from the court, it turns out they have much in common, the religious girl has the passion that only a repressed soul can have, and they find they have much in common and fall deeply in love.

The Period Details

The courtly manners, the dress and decor, the chasm between the classes, and Jane’s character itself all seem pretty accurate in historical detail. Because of these details, I’m willing to forgive the fabrication of romance found within such a strategically arranged marriage. As a YA librarian and teen advocate, I really appreciate when teens are convincingly portrayed, and I like Carter’s take on the emotions and expressions of a willful 15-year-old girl, filled with convictions.

The acting isn’t anything special; Elwes is overly intense and Carter’s crying is terribly fake, but their chemistry is genuine and they are pretty people to watch. It’s sort of a shame that the love scenes are chaste. Jane is beautiful when she laughs after playfully stealing her husband’s boot, beautiful when she cries as they part for the last time, beautiful in her regalness. Guilford is appealing in a floppy hair/rakish grin/glinting eyes sort of way. British accents, always sexy. Pretty people + short lived romance = crying into your popcorn. Watch it and weep every time the violins swell.

Published by Beth Gallaway

reader, writer, gamer, LEGO enthusiast.

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