Kings and Queens – Eight Coronation-worthy movies. Featuring, The Kid Who Would Be King, The King, The King’s Man, The Lion in Winter, Margrete: Queen of the North, Elizabeth, A Man for All Seasons and Edward II.
THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING (2019)
The Kid Who Would Be King is a highly creative delight that didn’t get the attention it deserved on its release. Here Joe Cornish laces together the anxieties of modern childhood with BREXIT Britain and Arthurian legend in a truly wonderful fantasy adventure. Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) thinks he’s just an average kid, his life a mundane set of trials and tribulations. However, Alex’s life is about to change when he stumbles upon the mythical sword in the stone, Excalibur, after escaping his school bullies (Lance and Kaye). The interface between the legend of King Arthur and contemporary Britain feels like it shouldn’t work, but it does through a delightful screenplay and a superb young cast. The Kid Who Would Be King believes in the power of young people to change the world and build something better than we currently have, and that’s a belief we can all support.
THE KING (2019)
In David Michôd’s The King, Henry IV Part One and Two and Henry V are combined into a single story that aims to both pay homage and transform Shakespeare’s plays into something more accessible. The King is not a Shakespearian adaptation, and anyone expecting such should watch the divine BBC series The Hollow Crown instead. The King is, instead, a clever and interesting reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s work that has a young audience in its sights. There is much to admire in condensing three lengthy and detailed plays into one film, and while the result is patchy, as the character-building of Henry IV Part One and Two rush toward the majesty of Henry V, Timothée Chalamet’s Hal is a pleasure to watch. This is a movie of clunky armour, dirt, blood and betrayal as we watch innocence decay; it’s Game of Thrones meets Shakespeare with explosive results.
KINGS AND QUEENS
THE KING’S MAN (2021)
The third Kingsman outing takes us back to where it all began as we meet Ralph Fiennes, the Duke of Oxford, and my god, Fiennes has fun with this action adventure. After a visit to South Africa that went tragically wrong when his son was a mere boy, The Duke of Oxford promised to keep Conrad (Harris Dickinson) safe at all costs. However, as World War One comes into view, this promise becomes more challenging to keep as the Duke finally allows Conrad into his secret service. Director Matthew Vaughn delights in playing with British history throughout, creating an action movie that appeals to a wide demographic. Here the James Bond influence of the first two outings is sprinkled with a far more Indiana Jones-inspired aesthetic. The result is an utter delight as historical fact merges with fiction in a movie that hums with the roar of a Fokker engine. Plus, if Rhys Ifans Grigori Rasputin isn’t one of the best modern-day film villains out there, I’ll eat my hat and his!
THE LION IN WINTER (1968)
Adapted from Anthony Harvey’s celebrated stage play, The Lion in Winter is a lavish portrait of Royal politics and family division set during medieval Christmas celebrations in 1183. Here Henry II of England brings his family together with the secret intention of announcing his successor from one of his three sons in a movie that feels like a forerunner of Succession. Written by James Goldman, The Lion in Winter is an utterly riveting watch that boasts one of the greatest ensemble casts of any 1960s movie. From Peter O’Toole to Katharine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, and Timothy Dalton, The Lion in Winter is a striking example of stage meets screen. As you watch this festive family get-together unfold while thinking about our current Royal Family you may ask yourself whether anything has changed since 1183.
KINGS AND QUEENS
MARGRETE: QUEEN OF THE NORTH (2021)
Inspired by the historical events of 1402, Queen Margrete’s peaceful union between Denmark, Norway, and Sweden is about to face its most deadly challenge as a damaged man returns home, claiming to be her long-lost son and the rightful heir to the throne. Director Charlotte Sieling’s lusciously crafted historical drama takes clear inspiration from Elizabeth (1998). Queen Margrete is a strong woman in a man’s world, her power held delicately by a golden thread as she battles the misogyny surrounding her. Like Blanchet’s Elizabeth, Dyrholm’s Margrete is a compelling and fascinating character as the film unpicks a period of Nordic history that many will be unaware of. While it may not quite reach the heights of Elizabeth, Margrete: Queen of the North remains a fascinating historical drama that is stunning in its vision and depth.
Few historical Royal dramas capture the darkness and light of majesty, like Shekhar Kapur’s Elizabeth. Cate Blanchett portrays a woman transformed through commitment, betrayal and fear into a leader who shunned sex and love in favour of power and prestige. Her character’s growth is inspiring, intriguing and compelling alongside the standout performances of Geoffrey Rush, Joseph Fiennes and Richard Attenborough. However, it is Kapur’s stunning visuals that would set a new standard for period drama. Late Tudor England has never looked so real, from costumes to sets and cinematography. Elizabeth unpicked the life of one of England’s most iconic monarchs through the turmoil and sexism of a court that was about to bow to an extraordinary and complex woman.
KINGS AND QUEENS
A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS (1966)
Directed by Fred Zinnemann, A Man For All Seasons is often remembered for Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More and Robert Shaw as a volatile Henry VIII. But from Orson Welles to John Hurt and Vanessa Redgrave, the whole ensemble makes this film one of the best Tudor dramas ever made. Written by Robert Bolt, A Man For All Seasons is interested in themes of loyalty versus morality and power versus pride as it dissects the events and politics leading up to Thomas More’s eventual trial and execution. Here the role of the individual in shaping society while speaking truth to power is vividly placed centre stage through Scofield’s More and his refusal to compromise his beliefs in the face of authority and friendship. Through a muted palette of colours only broken occasionally with vibrant hues, Zinnemann’s movie’s almost sombre tone reflects the shadows, plots and swaying allegiances of Tudor England as Henry stamped his image and his beliefs on a changing nation.
EDWARD II (1991)
Was Edward II gay? There is almost no way of us answering that question with any certainty; after all, our modern labels of sexual orientation didn’t even exist in 1307. However, Edward did have an intense and close relationship with Piers Gaveston and a far less intimate relationship with his wife, who would depose him. Equally, it’s clear that Edward I felt the need to banish Gaveston to France in 1306, despite Piers and Edward having been ‘very’ close friends since boyhood. Of course, this decision was reversed by Edward II as soon as he was crowned. Derek Jarman’s exquisite, bold and brave drama starring Steven Waddington and Andrew Tiernan is bathed in homoerotic visuals as Jarman takes us down an unconventional narrative path. Here Jarman is interested in using Edward’s story to explore the homophobia and alienation still rife in Britain at the start of the 90s: just look at how Gaveston is strangled by a modern-looking policeman with a baton. Jarman’s movie may be historical, but it suggests that Edward’s story could play out similarly in 1990s Britain, making it a cutting and challenging work of cinematic art.