Lady Godiva

Lady Godiva


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Most people are familiar with the story of Lady Godiva - at least the bit about her taking all her clothes off and riding through the streets of Coventry. Fewer people realise that she did it in order to challenge the authority of her husband and convince him to reduce the taxes which were forcing people into poverty. In this simple but passionate British romance, first time feature director Vicky Jewson updates the story to show us a modern woman who is prepared to ride naked through Oxford in order to obtain the funds to save her beloved art centre and show the man she loves what she's made of.

Jemima Honey is a young art teacher, engaging played by Holby City star Phoebe Thomas. Her dream is to resurrect the Art Factory which she created with her brother, but since his death in an accident she's been struggling with grief and lacking in confidence. When she meets the dashing Michael (Matthew Chambers) she thinks her troubles are over - but Michael turns out to be famous, and known partly for his casual attitude to women. Can she convince him to change his ways? This is essentially a conventional romantic tale, so you won't be surprised by the ending, but it's the journey that counts. Though the film is a little rough in places, with poor lighting and the abrupt changes of scene typical of an inexperienced team, there's an innocent sense of conviction about it which few large budget romances ever manage to attain. It's absolutely unselfconscious, and whilst that has led some people to laugh at it, it's a brave quality which allows fans of the genre to care a lot more about what happens to its protagonists.

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The biggest problem faced by this film is that it is, ultimately, a story about a woman trying to empower herself by taking her clothes off to attract money from rich men. Sure, she's also doing it to prove something to herself and to Michael, and the form of her action is shaped by circumstance, but it still implies that her only real asset is her body, which will sit uncomfortably with many viewers. It also sits uncomfortably with the creative energy she shows elsewhere in the film. As the story moves toward her momentous ride it becomes rather convoluted and muddled. Ultimately, one can understand how Michael might admire Jemima, but it's harder to see why she's still so committed to him.

The supporting roles in this film are minimal, but there's a strong turn from Steven Geller as an art-loving teenager who is suffering from bullying, and the sub-plot about bullying is interestingly handled. Overall, the film will probably appeal most to a younger audience. Its pop music soundtrack is sometimes abrasive but again has that unsophisticated charm which many viewers will find delightful. This is a film for people who still believe in all those classic schoolgirl notions of romance, a fairytale love story dressed up for the modern age.

Reviewed on: 16 Jan 2008
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Messed around by the man she loves, a young woman decides to raise money for her art centre by taking on his bet and riding naked through the streets of Oxford.
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Director: Vicky Jewson

Writer: Vicky Jewson

Starring: Phoebe Thomas, Matthew Chambers, Petra Markham, Julia Verdin, Steven Geller, Isabelle Amyes

Year: 2008

Runtime: 96 minutes

Country: UK


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