The Other Boleyn Girl (2 stars)

The Other Boleyn Girl

(12A) 114min


This clumsily abridged adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s bestselling historical novel fills in the ‘hidden history’ of Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne, the second of Henry VIII’s six wives. According to this take on the 16th century court, it was good-natured country girl Mary who, through a Machiavellian scheme engineered by her male relatives, became Henry’s first true love after he tired of his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, the latter having failed to produce a male heir. Having finally sired a son through Mary, the womanising monarch promptly allows himself to be seduced by Anne, here cast as a scheming witch with an eye on the throne. Increasingly ridiculous dangerous liaisons ensue.

Playing the Boleyn girls, Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson are cast against type. Portman has some fun as the ambitious coquette, Anne, who finally gets her comeuppance on the headsman’s block when she also fails to produce a male child for the heir-obsessed monarch. Johansson, on the other hand, doesn’t really have much to do other than look wan as the rather gormless Mary. And forced into the middle of this less-than-thrilling sibling rivalry, the usually excellent Eric Bana (as the King) simply looks fed up.

To be fair, it’s probably Peter Morgan’s undercooked adaptation of Gregory’s overheated novel that’s to blame for the lacklustre performances from what ought to be a strong ensemble cast that also features Kristin Scott Thomas, Mark Rylance, Benedict Cumberbatch and David Morrissey. And BBC period drama director Justin Chadwick’s underwhelming small screen-style doesn’t help any.

General release from Fri 7 Mar.

The Other Boleyn Girl

  • 2 stars
  • 2008
  • UK
  • 1h 55min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Justin Chadwick
  • Written by: Peter Morgan, Philippa Gregory
  • Cast: Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana, Jim Sturgess, Kristin Scott Thomas, Mark Rylance, Ana Torrent, David Morrissey, Eddie Redmayne

The 'hidden history' of Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne, the second of Henry VIII's six wives. Playing the Boleyn girls, Portman and Johansson are cast against type in less-than-thrilling sibling rivalry, while the usually excellent Bana (as the King) simply looks fed up. But rather than the cast it's probably Peter Morgan's…