Mrs Brown


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Billy Connolly with Judi Dench in Mrs Brown
"What might have been a costume gala, sponsored by the Scottish Tourist Board, is far tougher and more uncompromising." | Photo: BBC Films

After Prince Albert died, Queen Victoria became a right royal pain in the arse, sulking at Windsor, finding fault, treating her ministers like poodles and the Prince of Wales like an idiot child.

In desperation they sent for John Brown, the bearded Highland ghillie, who got on so well with Albert at Balmoral, in the hope that a Scottish presence might resuscitate the queen's flagging sense of duty.

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Brown was not used to protocol. He said what he thought and treated the queen like any other woman. The sycophants hated him because he showed them up. The queen warmed to him because he answered back. He had a native wit that appeared more straightforward than Disraeli's silver tongue (Antony Sher dazzles as the Prime Minister). At a time when Victoria wished to isolate herself from the country, John Brown gave her the strength to let grief go.

What might have been a costume gala, sponsored by the Scottish Tourist Board, is far tougher and more uncompromising. Billy Connolly has the physique and the patter. He looks good in a kilt and balances Brown's qualities with a stubborn sense of self-importance. He makes a real man of him.

Judi Dench's Victoria is stern. Here is a woman who knows her own power, does not suffer fools, expects unflinching loyalty, is prickly and shy, hardly capable of finding words to express emotion and yet feels too much, too deeply. It is a performance that does justice to Jeremy Brock's excellent script.

John Madden has directed a film, based on slender evidence, that rises above scandalous interpretation to a position where friendship has true meaning.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Mrs Brown packshot
The friendship that developed between Queen Victoria and a Scottish Highlander.
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Director: John Madden

Writer: David Franzoni

Starring: Judi Dench, Billy Connolly, Geoffrey Palmer, Antony Sher, Gerard Butler, Richard Pasco, David Westhead, Bridget McConnell, Georgie Glen, Catherine O'Donnell, Sara Stewart

Year: 1997

Runtime: 103 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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