The reviews below are of films that feature English and British monarchs
produced for the silver screen.  I began this list in 1996, when I taught a
course on the history of English monarchy for the University of Arizona's
extended university, when I was still an impressionable doctoral student.  
In the last year I have begun revising these reviews, as well as writing new
ones for films on English monarchs as they are released.
  

Becket (1964):  Sterling adaptation of Jen Anouilh’s stage play, which chronicles the
test of wills between Henry II (Peter O’Toole) and his erstwhile friend and
minister Thomas Becket (Richard Burton), who turned renegade defender of the
medieval church upon his appointment as archbishop of Canterbury.  The dramatic
license taken here is considerable; Becket is turned into a Saxon (he was actually
Norman) to further dramatize the ultimately irreconcilable divide between king
and archbishop, while Henry's wife  Eleanor of Aquitaine and mother the Empress
Matilda are played as bigoted shrewish harpies, as the king's son Henry is depicted
as a royal version of a village idiot.  Nevertheless, Burton was ideal casting,
employing a studied restraint in his performance that brilliantly defines the duality
of Becket's tortured character, while O'Toole is simply magnificent as king Henry
(a role he reprised in
The Lion In Winter).  Most importantly, this film brings alive
the central duality of the Middle Ages, between the violence of the temporal sword
of feudal society and the worldly and political spiritual sword of universal
Christendom.  (revised December 2009)




The Lion in Winter (1968):  The second best film on this list.  Peter O’ Toole
reprised the role of Henry II, in the twilight of his years, as he gathers his family
for a thoroughly out of control Christmas holiday.  The script positively sizzles as it
unfolds the dynamics of intrigue and betrayal that plagued the Plantagenet royal
family.  Katharine Hepburn won her third Oscar (a tie with Barbra Streisand!) for
her portrayal of the ambitious and scheming Eleanor of Aquitaine.  With Anthony
Hopkins as Richard, and Timothy Dalton as the youthful Philip Augustus of France.




The Lion in Winter (2003):  Take this version back, and exchange it for the 1968
version, which cannot be improved upon.




Braveheart (1995):  Mel Gibson (who also directed) as William Wallace, the
legendary defender of Scottish independence.  Thoroughly entertaining (especially
on the big screen), Gibson takes more than his fair share of dramatic licence,
relying heavily on unhistorical plot devices (I have students whose task is to figure
out what these are, so forgive me for not revealing them here!).  Patrick
McGoohan, though, is positively chilling in his portrayal of the darker side of
Edward I, the English Justinian, as the godfather of pan-British imperialism.  
Oscars for best film and director.




Edward II (1991):  This is an art film.  Derek Jarman’s modern adaptation of
Christopher Marlowe’s sixteenth century play depicts England’s most openly
homosexual king in modern dress, displaying a gay sensibility that simply did not
exist in the fourteenth century.  Still, one does get a feel for why Edward is usually
considered to be the most unsuitable of medieval English kings.  With Stephen
Waddington as King Edward, and Tilda Swinton as his ferocious queen Isabella.





Henry V (1945):  this first filmed version appeared just in time to provide a
powerful historical metaphor for what had been Britain’s darkest hour during
World War II.  Thanks to the bard of Avon, Henry V still holds the popular title of
England’s greatest medieval king.  The historical Henry was, of course, darker and
more ruthless than the hero of Shakespeare’s most patriotic historical play.  This
version, directed by and starring Laurence Olivier, holds up well.





Henry V (1989):  this later version is a truly spectacular production.  Kenneth
Branaugh (who also directed) sparkles as a more ebullient and charming king than
Olivier’s earlier depiction.  The sets and costumes would have pleased the bard
himself, while the Battle of Agincourt is a particular delight.  With Emma
Thompson as Catherine of Valois.  First rate.





The Tower of London (1939):  a bastardized screen version of Shakespeare’s
Richard III, this nicely costumed melodrama leaves historical accuracy on the
cutting room floor to tell the tale of England’s most reputedly sinister king.  With
Basil Rathbone as the scheming and homicidal King Richard III.





The Tower of London (1962):  a campy remake, this time seen through the lens of
schlock filmmaker Roger Corman.  I don’t know why I even put this lurid low-
budget potboiler on this list, except that Corman manages to work in every single
bit of anti-Ricardian Tudor propaganda.  Vincent Price is wickedly delightful as
Richard III.




Richard III (1955):  Shakespeare’s play was the culmination of a century of bad
press endured by the last Yorkist king, unable to defend himself from the grave as
a host of historians have done for him in the twentieth century.  As filmed drama,
however, Laurence Olivier was hysterically diabolical in the title role.  With John
Gielgud as George, duke of Clarence.




Richard III (1995):  another “art” film, like Edward II, offensive to the purist.  This
time the setting is between the wars Britain, nicely timed for Nazi allusions.  
Frankly, I do not see the point.  What could be next?  Antony and Cleopatra, living
it up on Miami Beach?  With Ian McKelland as Richard.




The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933):  this film capitalized on the then current
popular biography of the same name.  Charles Laughton won an Oscar for his vivid
portrayal of the corpulent sixteenth century monarch.  Though lauded in its day, to
the modern viewer it is nothing but high camp, full of unintentionally funny scenes
(or were they intentional?), as Laughton cemented Henry’s enduring reputation for
notoriously bad table manners.  Historical accuracy rarely prevailed in the early
days of Hollywood- this film is a prime example.  For instance, while the historical
Henry VIII was trim and athletic in his youth, Laughton is fat all the way through
the film, while Elsa Lanchester looked more like an alpine hausfrau than Anne of
Cleves.  Once you know what Henry and his wives actually looked like, you will
know what I mean.




A Man For All Seasons (1966):  Hands down, the best film on this list.  Robert Bolt
pared his stage play to the essential bone to chronicle the test of wills between Sir
Thomas More (Paul Scofield) and Henry VIII (Robert Shaw) over the “King’s Great
Matter.”  A deft use of dramatic license does not significantly alter the essential
historical accuracy of the screenplay, derived from sixteenth century primary
sources.  Beautifully filmed on location in England, the sterling supporting cast
includes John Hurt (Richard Rich), Leo McKern (Thomas Cromwell), Wendy Hiller
(Lady Alice More), and Nigel Davenport (The Duke of Norfolk), with stunning
cameos by Vanessa Redgrave as Anne Boleyn, and Orson Welles as Cardinal
Wolsey.  Directed by legendary filmmaker Fred Zinneman (
High Noon, From Here to
Eternity, Julia
).




A Man For All Seasons (1988):  refer to my instructions for The Lion in Winter
(2003).






Anne of the Thousand Days (1969):  Historians have never lost their fascination
with Anne Boleyn, the most controversial of all English queen consorts.  Richard
Burton cuts a fine figure as the bewitched Henry VIII, who moved heaven, earth,
and the Reformation Parliament to win his second wife, while the lovely French
actress Genevieve Bujold was an appropriate choice to play a queen who spent a
good deal of her youth at the French royal court.  In fact, Bujold actually looked a
lot like Anne Boleyn, and that helps.  Despite these obvious virtues, the
screenwriter compacted chronology and blended spurious fiction with historical
fact to create a plausible (to the non-specialist!) dramatization of  Henry and Anne's
torturous ten year relationship.  (revised June 2008)





The Other Boleyn Girl (2008) In all fairness, this is not filmed history, it is filmed
historical fiction.  That said, I have thrown off the hat of historical inquisitor to
evaluate how this film
suggests the story and the personalities of the mid- Henrician
moment.  While chronology and historical accuracy have been considerably
transformed to construct the story line, the film presents an imaginative telling of
the story of the Boleyn sisters, Mary (Scarlett Johansson) and Anne (Natalie
Portman) Boleyn ,  devoted to each other yet set up as rivals as their father and
uncle, the duke of Norfolk, pimp them out to a handsome but vapid Henry VIII
(Eric Bana).  A nice story, with Mary as the unlikely heroine, while mother
Elizabeth's (Kristen Scott Thomas) fury is a slow build throughout the film.  
Exquisitely filmed drama, but if you confuse this with history, you are in trouble.  





Lady Jane (1985):  This elegant film tells the tragic story of Lady Jane Grey, the
“Nine Days Queen of England.”  Helena Bonham Carter, darker and smokier than
the historical Jane, who was red-haired and freckled, considerably softened the
character of Grey who, like her cousin Edward VI, comes down in history as a
brilliant but prim, humorless Protestant prig, the tragic victim of a typically brutal
Tudor upbringing, in which childhood had no place. (When I originally wrote this
piece in 1996, Lawrence Stone was all there was!)




Young Bess (1953):  typically 1950s period piece of Elizabeth I’s life before she
became queen.  Even so, Hollywood took more than its fair share of dramatic
license to brighten what was the darkest period in Elizabeth’s life.  Charles
Laughton reprises the role of Henry VIII, to engage in a series of unaccountable
conversations with his younger daughter.  Similar to The Private Life of Henry
VIII, the utter lack of attention to even a semblance of historical accuracy is
noticeable to even the most casual student of Tudor history.  Of course, it would
have been bad box office to have shorn the devilishly handsome Stewart Granger
of his trademark salt and pepper Caesar-style locks in his portrayal of Thomas
Seymour, who actually sported long black hair and flowing beard.  Jean Simmons,
however, was never lovelier in the title role.

Fire Over England (1937)
This nearly forgotten gem of a film features an early screen portrait of Elizabeth I
ripped from the pages of J.E. Neale’s classic 1934 biography.  But
Fire Over England
was also based ostensibly on the novel of the same name in which the plot line,
which culminates in the defeat of the Spanish Armada, mirrored the current state
of European politics in the late 1930s, as a “free” Britain wrestled with the specter
of conflict with fascist Europe.  Flora Robson shines as Elizabeth, and her multi-
faceted performance ranks with those of Bette Davis, Glenda Jackson, and Judy
Dench.  Robson’s performance replicates the by now standardized stereotypes we
usually associate with Elizabeth; her vanity, sexual jealousy, as well as her
confidence, charisma, and devotion to longtime servants like William Cecil, Lord
Burghley, and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.  In this film, Burghley is the
cautious Neville Chamberlain, who tries to impress upon the queen England’s
inability to pay for a war strongly advocated by Leicester, a Churchill howling in
the wind for a return to England’s martial greatness.  But all these characters are
secondary; the protagonist here is Michael Ingolby, played the youthful and
engaging Lawrence Olivier, the son of a naval commander captured during an
engagement with the Spanish who was subsequently burned as a heretic by the
Inquisition.  But Michael himself is saved by a Spanish admiral, who lets him hide
out in his hacienda so that his daughter Elena could fall in love with him.  Despite
their mutual ardor, Michael is determined to return to his Queen and render her
service during the impending Spanish invasion.  The Michael character is fictional, a
sort of Raleigh and Essex all rolled up into one, and Elizabeth, of course, is very
fond of him, an affection that is dampened only by Michael’s love for Burghley’s
granddaughter Cynthia, played by a charming and ebullient Vivien Leigh.  Once
again, duty triumphs over love, as Elizabeth sends Michael undercover to a choleric
and religiously dogmatic Philip II’s court, to weasel out the secret instructions for
the
coup’ d’état that was to accompany the Spanish Armada.  In the meantime he
meets up again with the by now married Elena, who blows his cover, causing him
to negotiate a rather dashing escape,
a la Errol Flynn.  Back in England, Olivier’s
Michael gives Flynn a run for his money as a screen swashbuckler, as he
singlehandedly destroys the Armada, and returns to court for Elizabeth’s blessing
to marry Cynthia.  But even though Elizabeth is a secondary character in this film,
Robson offers a rich, nuanced performance of an idealized Elizabeth, who asks for
Burghley’s blessing before riding to address her troops at Tilbury.  Elizabeth and
Leicester also sigh over their long faded romance, as the Queen registers her
sublime displeasure with the inevitabilities of the aging process, as Cynthia
removed her bejeweled wig to reveal her own thinned out hair.  In this sense,
despite its fictional elements, the viewer is presented with the convincing portrait
of the state of England and its Queen on the eve of its most improbable victory.
(2011)




The Virgin Queen (1955):  Jean Simmons takes a backseat to Bette Davis in this
episodic account of the fabled Tudor queen and her relationship with Sir Walter
Raleigh, played by an ebullient and drop dead gorgeous Richard Todd.  Davis
vividly captures Elizabeth I’s queenly mastery, in a film that is an obvious
precursor for the second of the Kapur/Hirst films,
Elizabeth: the Golden Age (see
below) .  In the case of
The Virgin Queen, the Elizabeth and Raleigh tango has been
cleared of the details that clutter
Golden Age; no Cecil, Walsingham, Mary Queen of
Scots or King Philip, while Leicester is relegated to a sort of kindly uncle like figure
to Raleigh.  Todd's Raleigh is much more one dimensional than Clive Owens, but
he makes a superb swashbuckler in the tradition of Errol Flynn, while Joan Collins
as Bess Throckmorton more than holds her own in her scenes with the formidable  
Davis.  In this sense, and despite the consider dramatic license taken, this film is as
good as 1950s historical cinema gets, filmed in the wide screen process of
cinemascope (and gorgeously transferred to DVD), and shot entirely on the 20th
Century lot in Los Angeles, the production has an epic feel for a film that only
clocks in at just over 90 minutes.  Definitely worth watching. (revised September
2009)




Elizabeth and Essex (1939):  Bette Davis’s first romp as Elizabeth I.  The bare
bones of the relationship between the aged Virgin queen and the youthful earl of
Essex is fleshed out in typically early Hollywood style.  However, the film does
present, in a sanitized form, the sexual dynamic of the late Elizabethan court.  With
Errol Flynn as the reckless earl of Essex.




Elizabeth (1998) Cate Blanchett is luminous as Elizabeth I, while cinematographer
Remi Adefarasian did a masterful job of creating what may be the best modern
screen equivalent of Tudor era indoor lighting- dark and dank.  But that is about
all this production has to recommend for itself as a filmed historical text; Michael
Hirst’s screenplay inexplicably gutted the drama inherent in the early years of
Elizabeth’s reign to present a fictionalized, chronologically compacted melodrama,
as the characterizations of Cecil, Dudley, and Walsingham bear little relation to
their historical counterparts, although the duke of Anjou’s romp in drag is great
fun.  Any rational notion of historical time was thrown out with the bathwater, as
the film concludes with Elizabeth consciously, and over night, transforming herself
into the white faced clown of her final years.  Watch for its entertainment value
only.



Elizabeth:  The Golden Age (2007) I was fully prepared to hate this film, (as is
fashionable with Tudor historians) but, as with
The Other Boleyn Girl, I was
pleasantly surprised as I watched the DVD with some of my lay friends, who
found it highly entertaining.  Sure, no Cecil (who was rusticated in the previous
film!) or Dudley, but the 1580s chronology is roughly historical, while the
characters,  King Philip (Jordi Molla), Walter Raleigh (the magnificent Clive Owen),
Bess Throckmorton (Abby Cornish),  Mary Queen of Scots (Samantha Morton) and
Francis Walsingham (a surprisingly subdued Geoffrey Rush), create archetypal
representations of the great issues, foreign and domestic, that Elizabeth (Cate
Blanchett) and her subjects faced during the turbulent 1580s.  Indeed, Cate
Blanchett is easily the most versatile and compelling English speaking actress
working in film today, lending an air of class to virtually any film project she is a
part of, while Clive Owen sparkles as Raleigh; their screen kiss, while patently
unhistorical, conveys the essence of Elizabeth's frustrated emotional longings in a
way that the written word could never match.  In this sense, the film, at least for
the non-specialist, possesses some historical value.  Nevertheless, I will never
understand
why Kapur and Hirst ignore some of the most compelling dramatic
episodes
that actually occurred during the 1580s, such as the story of Elizabeth
signing Mary Queen of Scot's death warrant, putting it in her desk,  and telling
principal secretary Davison to leave it there, so she could throw a royal fit and
deny culpability once the deed was done.   



Mary of Scotland (1936):  Solemn, turgid version of Maxwell Anderson’s play of
the life of Mary, Queen of Scots.  While the names and dates are accurate, the film
fails to capture the complexity of the historical Mary’s character.  Indeed, one has
to wonder how legendary filmmaker John Ford and star Katharine Hepburn could
make such a boring film.  With Florence Eldridge as Elizabeth I.





Mary, Queen of Scots (1971):  Davis, Simmons, Blanchett, and Judi Dench (see
below) all must take a back-seat to Glenda Jackson’s superb portrayal of Elizabeth I
(you
must see the 1971 miniseries Elizabeth R if you have not already), although
Vanessa Redgrave fails to capture the transcendent charm that served Mary Queen
of Scots so well over the course of her tortured career.  While the religious and
political dynamics of the second half of the 16th century are nicely fleshed out in
the screenplay, the film depicts a series of secret chance meetings between the two
rival queens who never actually met face to face.  This lavish Hal B. Wallis
production is solid entertainment, and the chance meetings employ dramatic license
to good effect, but I remain ambivalent about a film that gives the audience the
impression that these two queens actually knew each other personally, when much
of the drama inherent in their story was due to the fact that
they never met.  With
Patrick McGoohan as James Stewart, earl of Moray.  (revised June 2008)




Shakespeare in Love (1998):  Judi Dench appeared onscreen for all of eight minutes
to become the only actress to win an Oscar portraying Elizabeth I(although
Blanchett was nominated for both of her Elizabeth films).  Dench was memorable,
though (“The Queen does not attend lewd performances!”), as was Joseph Fiennes,
Gwynyth Paltrow (in her Oscar winning performance), Geoffrey Rush, and Tom
Wilkinson in a fictional account of a chain of events that inspired the writing of
Romeo and Juliet.  This film is not only hysterically funny; it does a fine job
portraying the ups and downs of Elizabethan theater life, as well as the seamy
underbelly of late sixteenth century London.  




Cromwell (1970):  The story of the Puritan military genius who deposed Charles I.  
While lavishly filmed, with spectacular battle scenes of the English Civil War, the
film ultimately is a certified snore, as Richard Harris fails to ignite the passion and
implacable will of Oliver Cromwell.  Not surprisingly, Alec Guinness steals the
show as Charles I.


To Kill a King (2002) In 2003,The year following the release of To Kill a King, when
Rupert Everett played Charles II in
Stage Beauty (see below), he joined a rarified
group of actors ( Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Vanessa Redgrave, Helena Bonham
Carter) who have played more than one British monarch on screen.  As the
doomed Charles I in this film, Everett is much more regally subdued and than his
subsequent portrayal of Charles II, but his performance in To Kill a King lacks the
rarified charisma that animated Alec Guinness’s performance of the Charles I in
Cromwell (1970), the best performance in an otherwise dismal drama.  But the king
is but a secondary character in this engrossing study of the tempestuous, symbiotic
relationship between aristocratic Lord Thomas Fairfax and the Puritan Oliver
Cromwell, the men who led the parliamentary forces that defeated King Charles in
the English Civil War, tried him for treason, and beheaded him.  In this film,
Fairfax and Cromwell each have qualities that the other lacks.  Fairfax (Dougray
Scott) is good-looking, aristocratic, and has a beautiful wife, Lady Anne (Olivia
Williams), who remains devoted to the king.  Fairfax is popular with the troops,
and his ingrained sense of loyalty is at the core of his character.  In contrast,
Cromwell (Tim Roth) is a Puritan firebrand, entirely ruthless and without pity, the
driving force behind the effort to kill the king.  What is noteworthy about this film
is how the demands of family duty, obedience to royal authority, and an ingrained
sense of injustice tormented Fairfax, who was the only individual to question
Cromwell’s inexorable sense of destiny.  It is the story of this friendship, tempered
by the demands of justice and war, rather than the fate of the king, that made this
film memorable.





Restoration (1998):  Only recently have filmmakers come to realize how fun
Charles II and the Stuart Restoration could be on screen.  This film, the first of a
seemingly unintentional trilogy of Restoration era films, is based upon the novel by
Rose Tremain, concerning the adventures of Robert Merivel (Robert Downey Jr.),
ordered by Charles II (Sam Neill) to marry his mistress, but not to sleep with her.  
This proves hard for Merivel to do, who eventually finds the inner medical doctor
within, just in time for the London plague of 1666.  A visual treat, with fine
performances all around- as in Stage Beauty and The Libertine, Restoration
England is stunningly brought alive in this delightful film.




Stage Beauty (2004):  In the second installment of the Restoration trilogy, Rupert
Everett is a riot as the early restoration period Charles II, who relaxed the ban on
women actors in the theatre, creating big problems for Mr. Kynaston (Billy
Crudup), trained as a youth to portray female characters, particularly
Shakespearean heroines (A woman playing a woman?  Where’s the trick in that?”).  
Based loosely on fragments of reminiscence from Samuel Pepys, the film vividly
and humorously recreates the rather relaxed sexual mores of the Restoration court
(Edward Fox is particularly delightful as a decidedly puritanical Edward Hyde),
and the gender dynamics of Restoration England.  This film boasts a plethora of
excellent performances from Claire Danes, Tom Wilkinson, Hugh Bonneville, and
Richard Griffiths.  You must see this film!





The Libertine (2004):  the final installment of the Restoration trilogy finds the older
and less ebullient Charles II (John Malkovich) , troubled by his foreign
entanglements and the looming Exclusion Crisis, and stymied by the machinations
of poet John Wilmot, earl of Rochester (Johhny Depp), whose debauchery led to his
ultimate ruin.  Based on the play by Stephen Jeffries, Depp adds Wilmot to his
resume of offbeat performances, who casts his final vote in the House of Lords in
favor of an indefeasible hereditary monarchy.




The Madness of King George (1994):  Engaging drama, with comic overtones,
about the Hanoverian king who lost, successively, the American colonies and his
mind.  Nigel Hawthorne is brilliant as George III, as is Helen Mirren in her
portrayal of the devoted and determined Queen Charlotte.  For the most part
historically accurate, screenwriter Alan Bennett (who adapted his stage play)
managed to find a most sardonic wit and humor in the characterizations of Charles
James Fox (Jim Carter), William Pitt the Younger (Julian Wadham), and George,
Prince of Wales (Rupert Everett).



Young Victoria (2009):  Occasionally, an historical film will take an historical story
and transfer it directly to film with a minimum of dramatic license taken to make it
marketable for the big screen.  Young Victoria is one of those films,  and it is a
sheer delight.  As a teenage heir to the British throne, princess Victoria (Emily
Blunt) was caught in the power struggle between her uncle, King Willliam IV (Jim
Broadbent), her mother, the Duchess of Kent (Miranda Richardson), and her
mother's conniving boyfriend Conroy (Mark Strong).  Meanwhile, Victoria's uncle,
King Leopold of the Belgians (Thomas Kretschmann), feverishly grooms his
nephew, Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (Rupert Friend), to be the consort of the
future queen.  Through all this Victoria remains inwardly centered, and totally in
charge of affairs, public and private, once the crown was on her head.  I was
personally delighted that the drama inherent in the Bedchamber Crisis of 1839
(which I have discussed at length elsewhere) was used as a plot device, while the
film makers had no need to invent a love story for this film.; it is the unorthodox
courtship of hearts and minds between Victoria and Albert, which unfolds over the
entire film, that made
Young Victoria both charming and absorbing.  Highly
recommended!



Mrs. Brown (1997):  Judi Dench’s Oscar for Shakespeare in Love is partly explained
by her loss the previous year (to Helen Hunt in
As Good As it Gets) in what remains
her finest screen performance.  Dench vividly recreates the widowed Queen
Victoria’s unbridled wall of fury that only John Brown (Billy Connelly), an uncouth
thuggish Scot, was able to penetrate, to the disconcertion of “Bertie”, the Prince of
Wales (David Westhead), and the rest of the royal household and staff, and the
amazement of Benjamin Disraeli (Antony Sher), who recognized in Brown a
successful conduit to communicate with the isolated queen.  This film is as good as
it gets; performances, production values, and the attention paid to the actual drama
inherent in the pages of history; as the producers wisely chose to leave the true
nature of Victoria and Brown’s relationship unexplained.  Not to be missed!

The King's Speech (2010):  I was apprehensive concerning all the hype surrounding
this film as I entered the Galaxy Cinema in Cary NC, in the company of a bumper
crop of aging baby boomers and seniors.  As I soon realized, the critical chorus of
universal praise was completely justified; The King’s Speech, in fact, may very well
be the best film on this list.  What makes this film so compelling is that it is an
inspirational story of a very ordinary man, who happened to be the Duke of York
and then King George VI, who overcame the odds to beat his speech impediment
and communicate with his nation during its darkest hour.  Interspersed liberally
throughout the inherent drama of this story is a deft and sometimes manic comic
touch that frequently erupted into scenes that are the funniest celluloid I have
roared at in a long time.  The cast will all win Oscars.  Colin Firth (Shakespeare in
Love, Pride and Prejudice, Mamma Mia, A Single Man) is revelatory as “Bertie”
who sought out the services of Lionel Logue, a failed actor and self proclaimed
speech therapist.  As Logue, Geoffrey Rush  (Shine, Quills, Pirates of the
Caribbean) is mesmerizing, while Helena Bonham Carter (Lady Jane, Sweeny
Todd) as Queen Elizabeth is smart, classy, and entirely possessed with the human
touch that made this wartime king and queen so beloved by their nation.  The film
also features Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential, Memento) as “David,” King Edward
VIII, who threw away his crown for the women he loved.  Also revelatory is Claire
Bloom (Limelight) in her final scene as Queen Mary of Teck, who bristled as she
realized that her second son had the makings of a king her first did not.   

The Queen (2006):  Helen Mirren is superb as her current majesty, Elizabeth II,
who failed to grasp the enormity that the death of Diana, princess of Wales, had on
the British psyche in August of 1997.  Stephen Frears (The Grifters) fearlessly
filmed this story of the inner workings of the contemporary monarchy, as newly
elected PM Tony Blair wears down the Queen’s icy resolve for the monarchy to
“deal” with Diana’s death privately.  What I especially enjoyed about the film was
the way that Mirren’s performance betrayed Elizabeth II’s devotion to the
essentially Victorian morality that had served the Windsor dynasty so well; a
reverence she was unable to transfer to the next generation of royals.
 Mirren won
a much deserved Oscar for this performance; luckily, perhaps, she had already
been created a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 2003.