Anna and the King Review
Anna and the King is a non-musical adaptation of the true story that inspired the King and I. Not being familiar with the original account, I can’t comment on the historical accuracy or on how much of the original story is adapted. But I can say that it is a sweeping epic and beautiful period drama.
Anna Leonowens is a young widow and governess who has come with her son to Siam to teach the King’s children about the outside world. She finds herself clashing with the King on several matters and finds many challenges in a country far different from her own. She begins to develop a rapport with the King and settles into Siam. As she introduces new ideas to those around her, she also finds her own ideas begin to change.
Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat star in the film, two actors who have proven their capabilities time and time again, and are excellent as the title characters. They have a strong chemistry and light up the screen together. Bai Ling is sympathetic and moving as the unfairly treated Tuptim. You may recognize a very young Tom Felton as the overly curious but very likable Louis Leonowens.
The costumes are eye catching and provide, with the scenery, a luscious backdrop to the action. The entire film has a sense of grandeur about it, in part achieved by the use of scenes shot far from the camera and great spectacles. The palace is actually one gigantic set built just for the production. All of this lends the film a great sense of size.
The film is quite fair in its portrayal of both cultures, showing kindnesses and hypocrisies on both sides. This is perhaps something that could not necessarily be said of previous adaptations of the story. I like that change or progress is reciprocal and achieved together. The film also has a charming sense of humor.
Anna and the King is a long film, over two hours, but I was kept engaged throughout. At no point did I feel like it could have done with cutting a few scenes to improve pacing or the plot as often happens with longer films. There is not much action but this does not matter. It is exciting for other reasons: the intellectual conversations, the small victories and quiet romance.
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The romance is subtle but definitely present. It is of the kind that is played out in understanding glances, long conversation and small gestures of affection. It is beautifully done and well acted. I really enjoyed this aspect of the film. The romance, however, is only one small aspect of a greater whole and does not command the plot. If you like old-fashioned romance, as I’m sure you do, you will be charmed by it, I am sure.
All in all, a very interesting story about two very different people who had a very unusual friendship. Anna and the King is an interesting historical drama about the meeting of minds, the importance of open-mindedness and hope for the future. I really liked this film and think that many of you will too.
Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox
Content Note: There is no explicit content in this film.
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