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Becoming Elizabeth Review: A Brilliant Coming of Age Story of Elizabeth Tudor's Journey to the Throne

By: Yatamanyu Narain

News18.com

Last Updated: August 26, 2022, 17:34 IST

Delhi, India

Becoming Elizabeth is a brilliant miniseries that would get you up-close and personal with the least talked-about aspects from Elizabeth Tudor's life.
Becoming Elizabeth is a brilliant miniseries that would get you up-close and personal with the least talked-about aspects from Elizabeth Tudor's life.

Becoming Elizabeth U

4/5
  • 26 August 2022 | English
  • Drama
  • Starring: Romola Garai, Jamie Parker, Alicia von Rittberg, Jessica Raine, Leo Bill
  • Director: Anya Reiss
  • Music: Tim Phillips

The enraging and at times visually uncomfortable glimpses into the myriad life experiences of the naive and unassuming Elizabeth Tudor is bound to shake you up.

Becoming Elizabeth is a show which tells the baroque tale of Elizabeth I as she is propelled into the murky world of politics and bureaucracy of the English Court, an eventuality forced upon her existence by the untimely demise of her father Henry VIII. Though a consequential account lost in the annals of history, the enraging and at times visually uncomfortable glimpses into the myriad life experiences of the naive and unassuming Elizabeth Tudor is bound to shake you up and immerse you completely in its unforgiving and unapologetically unfair world.

From the get-go, the pace of the historical drama establishes itself without wasting any time. The utter chaos and fermentation that is left behind in the wake of King Henry VIII’s death grips England and quite evidently so his three children Mary, Elizabeth and Edward get embroiled in a ruthless bid to control the nation with little or no knowledge about aristocracy or how to run a country. The sheer susceptibility of their characters is what gives this series a realistic touch. For instance, the nine-year old Edward who ascends the throne after his father has an air of arrogance and benightedness around him.

Elizabeth Tudor who is a dewy-eyed princess is oblivious to the insidious tricks of politics and human psychology. Mary who is shown as a religiously devout Catholic is headstrong and reckless. Consequently, this sets a stage for the story to progress as those around them with vested interests have enough reasons to use them as mere pawns to satiate their nefarious goals.

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The series also managed to shine through as it depicted the problematic and unsettling advances of Thomas Seymour towards a 14-year-old Elizabeth in the most realistic way possible. The viewers would unwittingly get acquainted with the nuances and subtlety of Elizabeth and some could even resonate with her. It’s a story of grooming and abuse told from the eyes of the abused. Therefore certain scenes are bound to make you feel emotionally disturbed.

There are moments where Seymour aggressively invades her boundaries and discomfits Elizabeth, instances where he clearly manipulates her into questioning her perceptions of what feels inappropriate/wrong, blaming her for his desire and maintaining plausible deniability. And there are moments where she’s attracted to him and thinks she’s in control (and he manipulates her to believe she is), but she’s still clearly not. Anya Reiss, the creator of the series has done a marvellous job by not diluting the crux of the story.

‘Becoming Elizabeth’ as the name suggests is primarily centred around the early life of Queen Elizabeth I that has always remained a subject of discussion among historians and something that the film-makers have not explored before. It is significantly aligned with the court politics of that time and how certain alliances were forged surreptitiously and behind each other’s back with minimal visual portraiture of war scenes, blood and gore. Quite contrary to the likes of Game of Thrones and Vikings, this 8-episode series consists of gripping sub-plots and powerful dialogues but with a penchant for realism and dramatics. Although, with almost an hour long episodes, the story seems to get underwhelming and monotonous at times, the show seems to compensate the drawbacks with a finite number of plus points like tightly-written discourses, surprising twists and turns and unhackneyed character arcs.

Additionally, the background score by Tim Phillips deserves a special mention as it lends heavily to the mood and atmosphere of several scenes in the period drama. It is a right amalgamation of classical compositions enmeshed with modern musical sensibilities. Similarly, the cinematography and set design is exquisite. Shots of candle-lit halls and vast expanses of mountains meeting the sea managed to accentuate the ambience of the show. Becoming Elizabeth is also riddled with a number of intimate scenes—some of them aptly represented while others seemed forced and out-of-place.

On the acting front, Alicia von Rittberg who played Elizabeth looks convincing. Despite being a German actor, she has managed to do justice to her character with her on-screen innocence, ingenuity and vulnerability. Her gullible screen presence is bound to hit a chord with the viewers and would make them root for her. Not to mention, her subtle transformation through the eight episodes is meticulously rendered.

Another noteworthy performance is that of Romola Gorai who has essayed Mary Tudor. She did a fantastic job by maintaining a balance and not going overboard with her acting. One can see her determination towards her faith and country. Oliver Zetterström who plays King Edward VI would make you reminisce impulsive shades of Joffrey Baratheom from Games of Thrones. The rest of the cast like Tom Cullen(Thomas Seymour), Bella Ramsey(Lady Jane Grey), Jessica Raine(Catherine Parr) have aptly played their part in the historical potpourri.

To sum it up, Becoming Elizabeth is a brilliant miniseries that would get you up-close and personal with the least talked-about aspects from Elizabeth Tudor’s life and her arduous journey amid opportunistic and innately selfish people around her. Embellished with high production value and historical accuracy, Becoming Elizabeth would give you a holistic sense of convuluted drama played out between factions in Tudor’s England. It’s a must watch for everyone.
Becoming Elizabeth is now streaming on Lionsgate Play

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first published:August 26, 2022, 17:20 IST
last updated:August 26, 2022, 17:34 IST