Review Round Up: Firebrand, Cannes Film Festival

Jude Law stars as Henry VIII in this new film focusing on his sixth wife Catherine Parr. But what are critics saying about it?

(c) Larry D. Horricks

The Guardian: *** “This movie gets a voltage charge every time Law comes on in all his finery: roaring, smirking, wincing, pining and yearning to be loved. But, frankly, Aïnouz has not directed Vikander very interestingly and allows her to be upstaged.”

The Telegraph: **** “Law has a field day going to war with Alicia Vikander’s Katherine Parr in what might be the most revolting royal drama you’ll ever see.”

Variety: “In its corrective fashion, this handsome-looking film does a fine job of reclaiming Parr’s real-life achievements: She was a learned woman, who published several books and advocated for the education of women, introducing Protestant ideas to patriarchal England and paving the way for her stepdaughter Elizabeth to become queen.”

The Hollywood Reporter: “Like the Blanchett film, Firebrand provides a great leading role for an actress to bite into, which Alicia Vikander does with gusto, but also with the restraint and watchful self-possession of a woman well aware that it hasn’t always ended well for her predecessors in Henry’s bed. It’s her best work since Ex Machina.”

Metro: *** “Firebrand on the whole is gorgeous to look at, like a rich and sweeping painting of the period with its deep jewel tones and slightly moody lighting.”

Deadline: “Far more accessible to those who might not be drawn to this kind of costumer, Firebrand is what its title suggests and is consistently engrossing. It also is a fine showcase again for the talents of Vikander, who has found in Katherine Parr a strong role model, and in a time of rising autocratic control something contemporary audiences might find relatable. Law is truly becoming the consummate character actor of his generation, and playing King Henry VIII just cements that status. He looks like he is having a blast, and steals every scene he is in.”

Evening Standard: ** “In the end, despite ostensibly being a film about Parr, what will linger in the memory is Jude Law’s fascinating and terrifying portrayal of her tyrannical husband. Which, presumably, is the exact opposite of the point.”

The Wrap: “Not that “Firebrand” is influenced by today’s television. It’s fashionable now for royal historical dramas to be strenuously modern and indeed postmodern, with their employment of pop songs, snazzy outfits and colorblind casting, whereas “Firebrand” manages to be just as innovative by going as far as possible in the opposite direction. Never has a film set in the 16th-century looked more convincing. Ainouz and his team achieve such authenticity with their richly colored fabrics and candle-lit interiors (shot by Helene Louvart) that it’s like a Holbein painting brought to life.”

The FT: **** “We all know how the story plays out and yet writers Jessica and Henrietta Ashworth allow themselves enough liberties to tear up the school textbook and give the 1540s a feminist freshness.”

The Upcoming: **** “What could have been a tense, enticing regal thriller with a distinctively modernist twist is instead simply a tense, enticing regal thriller that is far from a tragic state of affairs.”

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