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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Elizabeth (1998)



Reviews and Comments

Elizabeth is an account of the turbulent early years of Queen Elizabeth I's reign. In her day, religious anxiety was high, and the thought of a Protestant queen succeeding the Catholic Queen Mary was an atrocity that drove many to desperate criminal acts. I had learned all this in school, but seeing the drama brought to life on screen gave my understanding of it a whole new dimension, much like The Prince of Egypt did for me with the biblical story of Moses. History lessons answer the basic who, what, where, when, why, and how questions, but they tend to gloss over the truly interesting issues such as the humanity of the characters and the conflicting emotions that drive them. In Elizabeth, one can know and understand Elizabeth's humanity, thanks partly to the script and partly to Cate Blanchett's brilliant performance. Her relationship with her half sister Mary, the prior Queen, gave me a whole new level of understanding about what it must have been like for them. The insecurities she must have had after first becoming Queen are made manifest. It takes great courage to stand up for what you think is right in the face of opposition from high corners -- that we understand, too.

Of course one must be cautious when using movies as history lessons. Movies tend to take artistic license with the material, and Elizabeth is no exception -- the essence of the story is accurate; some of the details are accurate, some inaccurate, others could go either way. What's important is that the story of the characters as presented is convincing, compelling, and feels genuine.