The first thing that catches the eye when lookingBecoming Elizabeth‘, it’s true quest not to conform too much to standards period drama or at least to find a balance between the characteristic solemnity of many works and the excessive lightness and “de-romanticization”, so to speak, of others.
The new Starzplay series begins with a music almost more typical of a thriller in what places us in the night in which he dies Henry VIII from England and gather under the same roof their three children, from three different mothers: Eduardo (Oliver Zetterström), son of Jane Seymour; Maria Tudor (Romola Garai), daughter of Catherine of Aragon and Isabel (Alice von Rittberg), daughter of Anne Boleyn.
It’s curious, still talking about an overexplored dynasty, thinking of this new historical fiction as the de facto continuation of the story that the network (along with the BBC) is doing of this historical period. Two years ago ‘The Spanish Princess’ ended, which concluded a trilogy started by ‘The White Queen’ and continued by ‘The White Princess’ that reviewed the War of the Roses and its consequences once it was over.
Thus, in this series we jump a couple of decades in time, to see the teenage years of one of the best-known monarchs. Although Queen Elizabeth I of England is one of the most portrayed in fiction, her adolescence has not been so seen. Remarkable films like Cate Blanchett’s ‘Elizabeth’ already showed her to us in the years of her reign and, going to the series, ‘The Tudors’ concluded just with the death of her father.
Taking opulence away from the royal portrait
Like its predecessors, Starz has specialized in part in period/historical drama aimed at a female audience (there’s also ‘Outlander’). The difference with the aforementioned trilogy is that it does not portray the court, the nobility and the palaces as something absolutely opulent but rather the opposite. There is no light, but shadows and sobriety predominate.
It is, therefore, quite refreshing and attractive this exploration of the future queen, who is played with innocence by a Rittberg who knows how to convey the contradictions of a girl that, in every sense, is halfway between the innocence of a girl and flourishing as a woman and wanting to start taking control of her destiny.
This is shown in the script in several ways, some more obvious including an unusually gritty scene where they go hunting in an ambitiously planned sequence. Other more veiled, with our protagonist making, little by little, a place next to her brother.
Equally interesting is the portrait of his sister Maria in what she finds herself in a court that is increasingly radicalized on the issue of religion and seeing how her Catholicism is isolating her in what she sees struggling between her faith, her family and her King. In general, the series is quite successful when it comes to handling her palace plots and even more so in the cast.
Although it does not always achieve a balance between the different characters that haunt this palace and their circumstances, ‘Becoming Elizabeth’ is a solid drama that manages to engage with its palace dramas and interest in some characters very accurately written and interpreted.