Jude Law remarkable in a beautiful classic film about one of the few surviving wives of King Henry VIII

The Brazilian Karim Aïnouz brings a beautiful historical touch to the story of the sixth wife of Henry VIII.

France Télévisions – Culture Editorial



Reading time: 2 min

Alicia Vikander in "The Queen's Game" by Karim Aïnouz (2023).  (BROUHAHA ENTERTAINMENT)

Historical film about Catherine Parr, sixth wife of King Henry VIII of England, The Queen’s Game by Brazilian director Karim Aïnouz was in competition at the last Cannes Film Festival.

Left empty-handed, the film, with its classic style, and the performance of Jude Law, unrecognizable as Henry VIII, are no less remarkable. In theaters March 27.

Mists and darkness

Sixth wife of Henry VIII, Catherine Parr suffered the early return of her husband who had been wounded in combat in France. Fanciful and brutal, he had two of his previous wives beheaded, two others having been banished, while one died of illness.

Effective regent during the king’s absence, Catherine has his favors, but the sovereign’s injury worsens, which pushes him to be more and more suspicious of his wife. Influenced by Bishop Gardiner, the king turns against his queen. Catherine then tries to foil with her companions the traps set by the court, the Church and the king.

Karim Aïnouz refines a realistic and sober reconstruction of the 16th century in Britain, tinged with metaphorical mists and darkness. They suggest a confused time, dominated by a devastating plague in the kingdom, war with France and Spain, and a sovereign who was as suspicious as he was unpredictable. His conflict with the Pope, linked to his multiple repudiations, if not assassinations, and his remarriages, led to the establishment of a new religion in England, Anglicanism.

Priority to actors

Meeting the criteria of classicism is far from being pejorative, as this is a chronological narrative, with realistic settings and costumes, with convincing performance from all the actors. Such is the interpretation of Jude Law who plays an aging Henry VIII, paunchy and diminished by gangrene. Unrecognizable under his makeup, and having become overweight for the role, he brings his oversized character to life without overdoing it, while inspiring the fear that the king aroused at court. Threat is everywhere, as if seeping from the walls.

Alicia Vikander also does not deserve anything in Catherine Parr, playing with restraint, determination and subtlety, in this double game that she must adopt to save her head, between submission to the king and external protection. Faithful to its reformist convictions, contrary to the dogma in force, it must ensure its own compromised security. This is what is at stake in his destiny, threatened at every corner of the corridor. It is not the least of director Karim Aïnouz’s qualities to have favored his actors in his staging, where others would have preferred pomp and effects. The Queen’s Game is all the more beautiful and convincing.

The movie poster "The Queen's Game" by Karim Aïnouz (2024).  (ARP Selection)

The sheet

Gender : Historical drama
Director: Karim Aïnouz
Actors: Alicia Vikander, Jude Law, Simon Russell Beale, Erin Doherty, Ruby Bentall, Bryony Hannah
Country : United States/Great Britain
Duration : 2h
Exit : March 27, 2024
Distributer : ARP Selection
Synopsis: Catherine Parr is the sixth wife of King Henry VIII, whose previous wives were either repudiated or beheaded (only one having died following illness). With the help of her ladies in waiting, she tries to foil the traps set for her by the bishop, the court and the king…

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