YA romance movies you may not have seen but should, Part 1

Posted on January 16, 2012

Lady Jane

1986 — starring Helena Bonham Carter (yes, Bellatrix Lestrange herself), Guildford Dudley (Westley/Dread Pirate Roberts), Patrick Stewart (make it so) and John Wood (greetings Professor Falken).

The Plot: The sort of true story of Lady Jane Grey, whom King Edward VI designated as his heir instead of his older, Roman Catholic sister, Mary. Everyone got into this situation thanks to King Henry VIII’s wandering eye and convenient conscience, which had led him to figure that OF COURSE he had to start a new church that would allow him to marry his mistress way back when. This meant his eldest daughter Mary was Catholic in a now mostly Protestant nation — the only reason King Edward’s gambit made any sense, because basically, Mary was undeniably next in line. However, for nine days, Lady Jane was hailed as Queen Jane.

The movie is of course heavily caught up in these political elements, but it is first and foremost the story of Jane’s marriage to Guildford Dudley. They were an arranged match, one intended to create political advantages for their parents. In this movie, they are a very unlikely pair — she’s scholarly, even intellectual, and so prim and proper even her parents are like, Jane, loosen up. Guildford, meanwhile, is first seen boozing it up in a whorehouse. Neither of them is one bit happy about the marriage, and at first it seems as though they’ll spend the entire time either fighting or ignoring one another. But then Jane learns why Guildford is so angry, and begins to question whether her own academic pursuits have distanced her too far from the real world. She and Guildford find the unlikeliest common ground, which blossoms into love — just as King Edward dies and their lives are transformed again, forever.

The Love: Maybe they go from mutual loathing to absolute rapture a little quickly, and I for one think Guildford was up to more in that whorehouse than he ever admits, but honestly, I bought the romance here, heart and soul. Mostly it’s because the actors are so amazing; they convince me far more than the script does. HBC actually seems delicate and unworldly enough to have no idea of how things work outside of books; Cary Elwes, as Guildford, was hitting his personal hotness apex, which was very hot indeed. There’s a lot of romantic (a) destruction of glassware, (b) conversations held while kneeling naked in front of fireplaces, (c) social justice initiatives and (d) gamboling in meadows. I am a sucker for all such.

The Best Parts: The way Jane’s firm religious convictions are both admired and tested — it would be easy to simply turn her into a faultless martyr. But the movie makes it clear that, despite her intellectual rigor, a lot of Jane’s early arguments have more to do with wordplay and dogma than sincere faith. In the end, she refuses to convert to Catholicism — but also recognizes that a Catholic clergyman has shown her more Christian charity than almost anyone else in the entire story, and decides faith may be broad enough to hold them both. Also, the Love. The aforementioned meadows. The costumes, which I am a sucker for in any period drama ever.

Also this movie contains Patrick Stewart. I am always sort of guilty at book readings, etc., when people ask me who is hotter, Rob Pattinson or Taylor Lautner or some similar matchup, and the fact is — guys, I’m too old for them. I see that they’re very attractive, but because I am nonpervy, men almost two decades my junior just do not do it for me as a general rule. (Although I may call a one-time exception for Nicholas Hoult. Ahem. Moving on.) Patrick Stewart in the 1980s, though? In period costume?


The Worst Parts: The ending. Don’t get me wrong — it’s powerfully acted and filmed, and the final scene is still one of the most affecting I’ve ever seen. But remember how in history class, you never studied Queen Jane of England? Well, there’s a reason for that. And you probably did study how Tudor political disagreements usually ended. Not with handshakes.

There is also a pretty high cheese level to some of it, but I think of it like a lasagna — incomplete without the cheese, but all the tastier for it.

Historically Accurate? Yes and no. Jane’s final words in the movie are taken almost verbatim, and the political factions and religious debates are correctly portrayed. Do not for one minute tell me that men did not wear hats like the one Patrick Stewart has on, because if that’s true, I don’t want to know.

But Jane wasn’t a social reformer in real life, and nobody’s really sure whether Jane and Guildford ever fell in love. They may not even have liked each other in real life; certainly their beginning was as rocky as portrayed here, and she did refuse to have him crowned king as some (including his politically powerful father) had hoped. But if you’ve ever toured the Tower of London, you’ve walked through the cell where Guildford was imprisoned; he carved Jane’s name three times in the stone. I’ve never understood why he would do that if there was really nothing there.

But when it comes to this movie, I don’t care about the history that much. It’s a rapturous period romance, if you’re in the mood for the same.


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