D: Jean-Marc Vallée. DP: Hagen Bogdanski. W: Julian Fellowes. Starring: Emily Blunt/Rupert Friend/Miranda Richardson/Paul Bettany/Mark Strong/Jim Broadbent/Thomas Kretschmann/Jeanette Hain/Harriet Walter.
Another year. Another biopic. Another Victorian love affair. But don’t despair, as although sporting hapless taglines such as ‘Love Rules All’ or ‘Her country. Her heart. Her majesty,’ The Young Victoria is anything, but hapless.
In classic biopic form, The Young Victoria gallops ahead to the time in Victoria’s life where she is itching for her independence, genuine authority, and an actual social association to the crown she might inherit. As history has it, as the only legitimate surviving heir to the British crown in the early 1800s, Emily Blunt’s Victoria was famously brought up in isolation. Being sequestered away from outside hazards, court, and her uncle William IV (Broadbent), from an early age Blunt’s Victoria was well aware of her price as heir to the empire. And keeping her cooped up in the Kensington Palace was her mother, senior Victoria (Richardson), of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (a German noble family) and her personal secretary, Sir John Conroy (Strong).
Without delving into a history lessons (I’ll leave that to your own research time) it’s safe to say that the film, like any historical film, keeps you on your toes as to who is who and what is what. Thankfully, the politics and history don’t overshadow the love story or Blunt’s personal perseverance to reign her country with knowledge and grace.
In the film, Blunt’s isolation from her country and relatives inspires an independent and eager spirit in the young monarch to-be. Characteristics that would be ultimately associated with her sixty-three year and seven month reign of the United Kingdom. Of course, this is where Blunt is her, excuse the pun, bluntest. The film gives Blunt moments where her controlled authority and command of spirit speak well beyond her years on screen and Victoria’s years in fervent captivity. Yet it is also Victoria’s historical passion for her people that Blunt is able to embrace and deliver, a passion that is equally given towards her husband.
Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Victoria’s first cousin through her mother’s side, sashes into her majesty’s life and on screen as fast as his carriage can take him. Rupert Friend is poised, slender, and delightfully tender during his courtship with his queen-to-be. Handling his German role smoothly, both he and Blunt appear conscious of their place within this period film.
Of course, despite some historical errors and goofs that history buffs will likely scoff at, the film embraces the humdrum boredom of Kensington Palace and the stifling responsibility of running a country as one’s born duty. German cinematographer Bogdanski embraces the claustrophobia of space in the film, shying away from the English countryside and tangential outdoors shots. Not only does this allow The Young Victoria to not feel like a heritage film, but also provides a clear juxtaposition of captivity and freedom in Blunt’s world.
Yet regardless of history or heritage, The Young Victoria is ultimately a love story. One that will remind audiences of times when there was not technology, woman’s liberation, a dominant sense of sexual freedom, and the list continues. So that although the film reminds audiences of a great, truly amazing monarch, it also reminds us of the human aspect in everyone’s lives, flaws and all. And love at any stage, period, history or time is a blessing.