Thursday, July 11, 2013

Movie Review: Bertie and Elizabeth

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Well acted love story between the two leads
Cons: Covers nothing very deep; portrayal of Mrs. Simpson
The Bottom Line
Enjoyable story
That covers plenty of ground
Brings people to life

Looking at Abdication from the Other Side

When I was researching docudramas about the abdication of King Edward VIII, I found one that looked at it through the lens of his younger brother, the future King George VI.  Curious how this movie would view it, I decided to watch Bertie and Elizabeth, a movie I mostly enjoyed.

Originally made for PBS’ Masterpiece Theater, this movie follows the life of the future king and queen of England from their first meeting at a dance to George’s death in the 1950’s.  That’s a lot of ground to cover, but they do a pretty decent job of making sure we follow the changing times.

Over the course of the film, we watch the two fall in love.  The scene where Bertie (James Wilby) proposes to Elizabeth (Juliet Aubrey) is delightfully funny.  We also watch as King George V (Alan Bates) cracks down hard on both of his sons.  And we are there for the first meeting of Edward (Charles Edwards) with Wallis Simpson (Amber Sealey), the woman he would give us his throne to marry.  Once Bertie becomes King George VI, we watch him deal with the growing threat of Hitler and World War II and marrying off his daughter, Princess Elizabeth, before falling to lung cancer in his 50’s.

In many ways, it is a love story, and one I enjoyed watching.  The relationship between Bertie and Elizabeth was always loving and supportive.  The movie does touch on his speech impediment (made famous recently in the film The King’s Speech).  And watching Elizabeth help him fight it and the strength he drew from her was touching.  I also enjoyed seeing him interacting with his two daughters.

On the other hand, I was surprised by how Edward and Mrs. Simpson were portrayed.  Unlike the last movie I watched, which treated it like a grand romance, this one treats Edward’s actions as one of selfishness in the face of duty.  The truth, as always, lies somewhere between the two, and I don’t expect a movie to cover the issues at hand.  What did bother me were the scenes where Mrs. Simpson treated Bertie and Elizabeth horribly.  Maybe there is some basis in them, but even so, the scenes were just cruel.  If they are true, I could definitely understand why the two shunned her much of her life.  And the strain the entire event put on the brothers was hard to watch.

Speaking of hard to watch, when the film reached its natural conclusion, I found myself tearing up.  I knew it was coming, but I’d gotten so attached to the characters that I didn’t want it to end there.

The acting by all the leads was good.  It allowed me to get lost in the story and pulled out the emotions I was feeling for the characters.

Clocking in around an hour and 45 minutes, this film just scratches the surface of the story.  It does provide an interesting overview, and that’s all it truly needed to do.  If you want more detail, a movie is never the place to find it.

But all I was looking for was another take on this period of English history.  And as such, I am glad I watched Bertie and Elizabeth.

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