England’s Queen Victoria, whose reign lasted for 63 years, took the throne at the tender age of 18. The Young Victoria, deftly directed by Jean-Marc Vallée from an intelligent screenplay by Julian Fellowes, offers a version of her early years as a monarch. This outstanding film emphasizes Victoria’s romance with Albert, the love of her life. Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend give marvelous performances as the royal lovers; they are completely believable as two people who care deeply about each other. Fortunately, the film’s production values match their fine work. Lavish costumes, sumptuous settings, beautiful background music and splendid cinematography enhance this involving period drama. While watching what’s happening on screen, we feel transported back to England in the 1800s.
I’ve admired Blunt’s work ever since seeing her in Irresistible. No matter how different the roles she takes on – for example, compare her snide assistant in The Devil Wears Prada with the irresponsible sister she plays in Sunshine Cleaning – her unique charisma shines through. This remarkable versatility continues in The Young Victoria, for she plays a woman who goes from an inexperienced, manipulated teenager to a powerful monarch passionately in love with her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Actor Friend also impresses me with his ability to become very different types of characters on screen. In Chéri, he stole the show as the young, devil-may-care lover of a fading French courtesan. In The Young Victoria, he captures the look and emotions of a responsible and intelligent man who falls for a Queen but, because of protocol, must wait for her to propose.
Even for royals, the course of true love never runs smooth. Victoria and Albert face many obstacles before and after their marriage. Victoria’s mother (Miranda Richardson) and her controlling advisor (Mark Strong) have kept the girl under close supervision. They hope to influence Victoria after she assumes the crown – and they don’t care for Albert. In Albert’s case, he must return to Belgium after meeting Victoria and becoming infatuated with her, so their relationship is relegated to the letters they exchange. When Victoria and Albert do wed, difficulties concerning Albert’s role and Victoria’s reliance on Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany) arise. However, through it all, we never doubt the love Victoria and Albert share. We see it in the way they look at each other when doing such simple things as playing chess or discussing the music of Johann Strauss and Franz Schubert. A particular disagreement may get loud and intense, but we know they will work things out.
While The Young Victoria takes dramatic license with some political events which took place during Victoria’s early reign, this movie is at heart a love story – and, for me, it hits all the right notes on that score.
(Released by Apparition and rated “PG” for mild sensuality, a scene of violence and brief incidental language and smoking.)
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