04 January 2010

Review: "The Young Victoria"

The first time I saw the trailer for The Young Victoria I was not too thrilled. Emily Blunt seems too modern to play Queen Victoria. This may be based on the few films I have seen her in, The Devil Wears Prada, Dan in Real Life and Sunshine Cleaning. I enjoyed all three films and I believe she is a talented actress. Taking on the role of a British monarch has rewarded some of today's most talented actresses, Judi Dench in Mrs. Brown as Victoria, Helen Mirren in The Queen as Elizabeth II and Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth as Elizabeth I. All three were nominated for Best Actress at the Academy Awards, and it obviously Emily Blunt has some tough shoes to fill. The film is directed by Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée and produced by Martin Scorsese and Sarah Ferguson (Duchess of York). The Young Victoria takes us back to 1836, and depicts the struggles of the young queen shortly before and after her coronation.

In 1836 William IV is the King of England and together with his two brothers there is only one heir to the throne, Victoria. For all her life she has been protected. She was not allowed to read books or to attend school with other children, and she is not allowed to walk down the staircase without assistance. Her mother, the Princess Victoria (Miranda Richardson), and her comptroller, Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong), want Victoria to relinquish her title to the throne in favour of a regent because she is too young. The film depicts Victoria as a strong and intelligent young woman, aware that she is engaged in a game. Victoria is courted by her cousin Albert (Rupert Friend), through the ambitious insistence of her uncle Leopold, King of Belgium. Victoria is not eager to marry and wishes to remain free, and through her romantic entanglements we see how she grows into her role as queen.

I was quite pleasantly surprised by The Young Victoria. The film did not flow as effortlessly as I would have liked, but the performances were excellent. I was a bit unsure of Emily Blunt for the first few minutes, but as the film got into its groove I fell in love with her as Queen Victoria. The costumes and cinematography are not as impressive and some period pieces, but the film depends more on character than anything else. I would have liked to have learned more about Victoria in the latter stages of her reign, but I was engrossed in the film and enjoyed watching Victoria play the game against her mother and Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany). The Young Victoria is not an exceptionally unique film, but it is anchored by Emily Blunt in her most challenging role. She is beautiful to watch and I expect even greater things for her in the future.

My rating: 3 stars out of 4.

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