This review originally appeared on my blog The Book, The Film, The T-Shirt. You can view it here.
After an intense courtship, the marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn is starting to show the cracks. After a number of miscarriages and a daughter, the king’s longing for a male heir only grows stronger as he begins to fall for Jane Seymour.
Channel 5’s bizarre Anne Boleyn fixation continues, but with a much higher production value than we’ve perhaps come to expect. While in some quarters, the casting of black actress Jodie Turner-Smith has been met with controversy, she gives a superb performance as the doomed queen.
This three-part series has you on the back foot from the get-go with a ticking clock as we’re told that Anne has only five months left to live before she is executed. Writer Eve Hedderwick wastes no time in plunging viewers into a rising sense of panic at Anne’s fate.
While the story of Anne Boleyn is often seen through the male gaze, using the limited historical knowledge we have of her, the female-led director/producer/writing team flesh out as much more of a person rather than a scheming temptress. She’s shrewd politically (at first) and knows how to survive and thrive in the politics of the time. Turner’s on-screen chemistry with Mark Stanley’s Henry VIII is almost palpable.
Anne’s grip on the king and her own fate begins to weaken as she suffers a number of traumas, leading to Henry beginning to doubt his decision to marry her.
While this particular version of Anne Boleyn’s story is told through a more modern feminist lens, it is no less powerful or worthy than others that have gone before it.
Turner is the stand-out performance here but she’s ably supported by a great supporting cast including Lola Petticrew as Jane Seymour, Paapa Essiedu as George Boleyn, and Mark Stanley as Henry VIII
A tight drama with some strong performances, not least from Turner-Smith. Though we know Anne’s fate from the very start, watching her fall from power and on her path to execution is no less shocking.
Channel/Platform – Channel5/My5