“Anna and the King,” reviewed by Jennifer Anne Messing.
Period drama/ Adventure/ Romance. Rated PG-13 for some brief violent scenes. Appropriate for viewing with teens ages 14 and up. Check your favorite local or online video rental stores, or the public library for availability.
“Anna and the King” is a two-hour, twenty-seven minute, Fox 2000 Pictures/Lawrence Bender film production, in color, released in 1999, directed by Andy Tennant, starring Jodie Foster, Chow Yun-Fat, Tom Felton, Keith Chin, and Ling Bai. This true story is based on the personal diaries of Anna Leonowens. Viewers will enjoy this rich historical drama set in Siam in the mid-1800s.
British-born Anna Leonowens (Jodie Foster) was a young widow who traveled with her son to Siam (Thailand) in 1862 to commit to employment as a teacher of the fifty-eight children of His Royal Highness, King Mongkut (Chow Yun-Fat), king of Siam.
When Anna arrived in Siam, she was frustrated that she could not meet the king after several weeks had passed by. She and her son, Louis Leonowens (Tom Felton), were also thrown into a world they were unfamiliar with, since the country of Siam operated under many laws that Anna felt were backward and uncivilized by Western standards of that day, including the practice of owning slaves.
In King Mongkut, Anna saw a man who was intelligent, strong-willed, and committed to leading his country effectively and with a desire to make positive changes for future generations. It didn’t take long, however, for opinionated Anna to realize that she and the king would probably never see eye to eye on everything.
In the weeks and months ahead, Anna fulfilled her contract to teach and did so to the best of her ability, trying to respect the king’s wishes while also remaining true to her own convictions about what things would constitute a good education for the royal children. Anna’s wise teaching soon impacted and enlightened not only Prince Chulalongkorn (Keith Chin), heir to the throne, and the other royal children, but various government officials as well.
What Anna did not count on, however, was how much care and affection for the royal family would grow in her heart after living in Siam for an extended period of time and after pouring her devotion into teaching and helping them. Soon, various events brought political unrest and challenged the stability of King Mongkut’s regime and also forced Anna to ponder seriously whether it would be most prudent for her and her son, Louis, to leave Siam for good.
“Anna and the King” is an exciting drama that deals with several themes, such as family, faith, romance and war which will captivate the attention of both men and women. The cinematography is breathtaking, from the majestic palace views to the scenes displaying the lush green countryside of Thailand, all strengthening the authenticity of this story.
Anna Leonowens’ desire to uphold her own religious convictions in a country that did not value Christian teachings was an admirable feature of Anna’s personality. In the movie’s epilogue, young Prince Chulalongkorn was noted to have been so deeply influenced by Anna’s teachings that when he later became king of Siam he introduced many new laws and practices and he abolished slavery. There is a Biblical verse which states, “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6 NASB).
“Anna and the King” features an excellent cast of American and international actors. Jodie Foster portrays Anna Leonowens with grace and maturity. Chow Yun-Fat, who played King Mongkut, did so with the majesty and sophistication the role demanded. Ling Bai offered a touching support role performance as Tuptim.
Parents are advised that there a few brief violent scenes, but they are easily anticipated and will not take one completely by surprise. Those who are so inclined can fast forward past those scenes without losing their understanding of the movie’s plot.
Some of you might be interested to watch the 1956 version of this movie, a musical, entitled, “The King and I.” The 1956 version was memorable in its own right, but “Anna and the King” can definitely stand alone and be appreciated for its strength as a moving historical drama.
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Portland residents can borrow “Anna and the King” (1999) on DVD, at the Multnomah County Library, tel. 503-988-5234. “Anna and the King” (1999) in DVD format can be rented at Movie Madness, 4320 SE Belmont, Portland, Oregon, 97215, tel. 503-234-4363.
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Award-winning author, poet, columnist and speaker Jennifer Anne F. Messing of Portland, Oregon, is a wife, and mother of three young adult children. She has a bachelor’s degree in Christian education and journalism. A past president of the Oregon Christian Writers, Jennifer Anne has over 200 articles, movie reviews, and poems published in 60 magazines and books. Her latest book, “EVERLASTING LOVE: Romantic Vignettes for a Woman’s Heart,” a collection of short fiction, is now available in trade paperback and e-book (Kindle and Nook) format. Visit her website for more information: www.JenniferAnneMessing.com.
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