If you know anything about Henry VIII, it’s probably that he went through wives like a teenager goes through hashtags. (Is that a hip, relevant reference – all the kids these days use the Twitter, right?) In fact, he was so pissed at the pope, he broke off and formed his own church where he could marry, fuck, kill whichever queen he wanted. I feel like this is totally accurate.
The man for all seasons featured here is actually Thomas More, who is famous for writing Utopia, a book that you may have learned was significant in school but would never actually read. He also, out of some deep moral feelings, resisted Henry VIII’s crazy moves by… not explaining why he wouldn’t sign on to the divorce/beheading party. I’m not entirely clear on that part. It’s fine, though, because (history spoiler alert) he eventually joined the beheading party whether he wanted to or not.
As I may have mentioned, I’m a little rusty on royal history. As evidence of this, I spent a decent portion of the early section of this film wondering why Oliver Cromwell was in a movie about Henry VIII and how I’d learned so little in AP Euro History in high school. Lo and behold, another Cromwell played a role in British history, and he was apparently related to the Puritan who later ruined Charles I’s day.
I found the first half of this pretty dull, in large part because I had trouble figuring out who was who and what the story was. Then Henry VIII shows up, and acts in a manner that seems to be now standard for autocratic figures: he’s downright jovial one minute and spins on a dime to be creepy-scary when he doesn’t get his way. It’s a little cliché now, but maybe was less so in the sixties.
As Thomas More sits with the decision he’s made – not to support Henry VIII’s break from the Church, but also not to openly oppose him – it gets a bit more interesting. But it’s never exactly clear what game he’s playing and why he thinks remaining mysterious is the way to go. Maybe he hoped that he might avoid the king’s wrath by keeping his big mouth shut; on the other hand, if he holds such deep religious convictions, why not own them, even at the risk of his own life?
Sometimes movies appear to be educational, or at least to inspire you to go read a book or something. I’m not sure whether I care enough about Thomas More to read more about him, unfortunately. I am, however, looking forward to spending more of my free time reading in the near future. Or maybe I’ll go binge-watch The Tudors or The Crown.
First Time Watching? Yes
Final Verdict: This isn’t Spain