reviewed by Marc Glassman
The Young Victoria
Jean-Marc Vallee, director. Julian Fellowes, script. Starring: Emily Blunt (Victoria), Rupert Friend (Albert), Paul Bettany (Lord Melbourne), Miranda Richardson (Duchess of Kent), Mark Strong (Sir John Conroy), Jim Broadbent (King William)
The Young Victoria is a surprisingly lively depiction of the courtship of a very attractive princess by an ambitious, charming German nobleman. The fact that the couple turns out to be Queen Victoria and Prince Albert is, of course, the astonishing element in the film. For most audiences the notion that Victoria, often thought of as a figure of rectitude and moral superiority, was once a bright, vibrant young woman with sensual desires will surely be a revelation. And this Albert is a clever, spirited individual, not a dull cipher at all.
As played by Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend, there are definitely sparks in the relationship. From the first time they meet, the two are enmeshed in a conspiracy to liberate Victoria from her minders. The course of true love never runs easy, including this one. Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent (played quite well by Miranda Richardson) and her “friend” Sir John Conroy worked assiduously to control the princess. Albert’s sensitivity to this is what first endears him to Victoria—and the audience.
Held back by the affairs of state, which trumped romance during Victoria’s late teen years, the film takes time out from the duo to explore the political situation in England at the time. Slightly mad King William, expertly played by Jim Broadbent, is slowly dying and the aristocracy is trying to get Victoria, the future Queen, to be on their side. Victoria’s mother and consort abuse her in a fruitless attempt to break her spirit and make her listen to them while the witty Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany) also tries to control the princess, but in a more benign way. The point is made. Everyone needs Victoria’s favour, even Albert whose family members are slightly impoverished aristocrats
But true love asserts itself soon enough. Victoria and Albert are married quite quickly after she takes the throne and the last “act” of the film observes their romance turning into a strong marriage. Despite political controversies and some fraught personal dramas, the duo remains committed to each other.
The Young Victoria is a genteel film that benefits from a literate script by Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) and smooth direction by Quebecois Jean-Marc Vallee (C.R.A.Z.Y.). The film lovingly recreates, um, Victorian England, not too surprising given that Fellowes and co-producer Sarah Ferguson are royals. The Young Victoria is a fine experience—and not one confined to bluebloods.