The Young Victoria

The Young Victoria


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Queen Victoria reigned for more than 63 years, but most depictions of her focus on the later period of her reign. In Mrs Brown we saw her friendship with her ghillie after the death of her beloved Albert, and her romance with him was dramatised in a 2001 TV movie. The Young Victoria is intended to address this gap.

The film has a fairly odd genesis. Both Sarah "Duchess of York" Ferguson and Martin Scorsese are credited as producers. It's written by Julian Fellows, who acted in his fair share of costume dramas before Gosford Park established him as a scriptwriter. He's taken a few liberties with historical fact, but this is more dramatisation than biopic and as such it's excusable. The film's focus is effectively on Victoria's ascension to the establishment; it takes us to the point that we already know.

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Fellows' script includes events like the Bedchamber Crisis, and adds more than a little dramatic license to the earlier assassination attempts in Victoria's reign. The courtship of Albert is endearingly clumsy, and there's real weight to Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend's interaction. Blunt is charming in the starring role, though it is much lighter than other performances by the likes of Judi Dench. It's fair enough though, as this is a lighter film.

Light and focus are quite important. Director Jean-Marc Vallee won several awards for his last film C.R.A.Z.Y., but The Young Victoria is probably enough to get him into the mainstream. His work with cinematographer Hagen Bogdanski (who worked on The Lives Of Others) is very good. One minor scene stands out, the camera running its focus down a row of glasses at a table being set. It's a really nice bit of film-making, well judged, well placed. As a film it is very pretty and poised.

There are a number of excellent performances: Jim Broadbent as the jovial and jaded King William; Jeanette Hain as the Baroness Lehzen, Victoria's former governess and confidante; Paul Bettany as Victoria's first Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, and Michael Maloney as his successor Sir John Peel are also very good. Queen Victoria has herself appeared so often in minor roles in other films that it's nice to see minor roles in her story treated so well. The sheer range of advisers, equerries, consorts, ladies in waiting, even potential assassins is such that there's lots of scope for neat little turns, and for the most part they are just that.

The Young Victoria is enjoyable, if not scrupulously accurate. It is, however, well framed and assembled, with plenty of good performances. It won't appeal to everyone; it is ultimately a vague period romance with some moments of humour and some dramatised (and stylised) scenes, with a grounding in history, but for all that it's entertaining. Fellows' script doesn't start quite where one would expect it to, nor does it finish at the end of the story proper, but as an unexamined slice of a famous life it's a pleasing confection.

Reviewed on: 07 Mar 2009
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A dramatisation of the early life of Queen Victoria and her initial romance with Prince Albert.
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Director: Jean-Marc Vallée

Writer: Julian Fellowes

Starring: Emily Blunt, Jim Broadbent, Mark Strong, Paul Bettany, Miranda Richardson, Rupert Friend, Jeanette Hain, Michael Maloney

Year: 2009

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: UK, US


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