The film takes place in the Christmas of 1183. Henry II (Peter O'Toole) is determining which of his sons will succeed him to the throne. The logical choice is the war-mongering Richard (Anthony Hopkins), who will go on to become Richard The Lionheart. He is Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katherine Hepburn), Henry’s wife’s, favourite but Henry prefers the feckless John (Nigel Terry).

No one gives any thought to Geoffrey (John Castle), who schemes in the background to outwit them all. Into the midst of this melee walks the young king of France (Timothy Dalton), who has come to demand that his sister, Alais (Jane Merrow), marry one of the king's sons. But Alais is preoccupied. She has become the king's mistress and has no desire to wed any of his sons.

I fear that for today's moviegoers The Lion In Winter may prove to be too theatrical, but I would urge them to stick with it. The film is a triumph, not least because in this current age of reliance on special effects there is nothing here but a beautifully written script, subtle direction, dazzling acting from the entire cast, most particularly O’Toole, Hepburn (who won her third Oscar), Hopkins and Dalton, and a good, simple story of a dysfunctional, Machiavellian family that is well told and which still has relevance today.

Reviewed on: 28 Aug 2008
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Henry II chooses an heir, whilst all those around him plot.
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Keith Dudhnath *****

Director: Anthony Harvey

Writer: James Goldman, based on the play by James Goldman

Starring: Peter O'Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Timothy Dalton, Anthony Hopkins, Jane Merrow, John Castle, Nigel Terry, Nigel Stock

Year: 1968

Runtime: 129 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

Festivals:

Bradford 2011

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