The Review - AT THE MOVIES with DAN CARRIER Published:5 March 2009
Emily Blunt as Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria: A look behind the curtain
THE YOUNG VICTORIA
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee
THE popular image of Queen Victoria is a politically savvy figure dressed in mourning black, who kept the company of bewhiskered statesmen who she relied upon to carry out the task of ensuring she continued to be an Empress to far-flung countries across the globe. Her relationships with Prime Ministers such as Gladstone, Disraeli, Peel and Palmerston are seen as crucial to making Britain a 19th-century powerhouse.
But while these popular images remain, little has reached the screen of the early life of the Queen, and how she fell for her husband Prince Albert. His premature death left her to rule alone, stricken with grief, for the best part of 50 years.
This story of her early life goes some way to redress the balance. Though unbearably soppy and sentimental at times, Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend as the two lead characters have great presence together. Friend in particular puts in a believable performance as the beau of the world’s most powerful woman, and the challenges this presents.
We learn of the other offers Victoria had before she settled on Albert, and have a ringside view as they fall gently in love.
And while this film touches on the relationship between the Queen and her first Prime Minster, Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany) and his rival Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong), its plot quickly becomes driven by the courting of Prince Albert and their subsequent betrothal. It bathes both in a very kind light, and their romance will melt the stoniest of hearts.
Throw in a sound performance by Jim Broadbent as William IV, and Miranda Richardson as his queen, and there is not a duff note to be found.
Above all, director Jean-Marc Vallee has managed to recreate the sense of Victorian court without stuffiness, and, although I’m not one to go out of my way to watch a period romance/ drama, there is also enough political intrigue as to how the court jockeyed for influence around Victoria to keep you interested.
While this is no Madness of King George, it’s not a bad stab at telling the human story behind a crucial period of English history.