Much lost in the medieval mists


Anne Boleyn managed to stay alive while married to England's King Henry VIII for 1,000 days, but her sister Mary in The Other Boleyn Girl would have been his queen if only she had been better at making babies.

That was the central problem. The Tudor line's grip on the throne was threatened by the lack of a son, even though it would be daughter Elizabeth who reigned in England's golden age.

In Justin Chadwick's handsome but glum film, based on the novel by Philippa Gregory, the focus is on Anne (Natalie Portman) and Mary (Scarlett Johansson) as their father (Mark Rylance), and uncle, the Duke of Norfolk (David Morrissey), conspire for one of them to win the king's fancy while their mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) looks on in disgust.

Shot in high definition and filmed at historic locations, the film lacks the splendour of an epic, its urgency to get on with the plot leaving much unexplained. Strong performances by the female leads and the costumes might attract period fans, but there's not enough flash and fire to grab wider audiences.

Although the homes and castles are lovely, the story feels rushed, a feeling made worse by the director cutting every couple of scenes to somebody on horseback riding furiously through woods or water. Like the film, it's not always clear why.