© 2010 Ray Wong
Queen Victoria is one of the most written-about figures in history, but much has been said about her later years as the familiar monarch that she was. The Young Victoria focuses on her earlier years, as well as her relationship with husband Prince Albert.
England's Princess Victoria (Emily Blunt) is next in line to take the throne as her uncle, King William, is ailing and has no direct descendants. Because of her age (she is not quite 18 yet), Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong) tries to coerce Victoria to sign over her rights to a regency headed by her mother, Duchess of Kent (Miranda Richardson). But the strong-willed Victoria refuses.
As Victoria becomes of age, young suitors begin to emerge to try to win her heart. One of them is Victoria's first cousin, 20-year-old Albert (Rupert Friend). At first, Albert tries to court Victoria out of obedience to his uncle, King Leopold of Belgium (Thomas Kretschmann), whose sister is the Duchess of Kent. But soon, Albert falls in love with Victoria, who is not too naive to realize her uncle's motives. Meanwhile, Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany) also tries to woo Victoria and eventually becomes her secretary and advisor.
After King William dies, Victoria quickly becomes Queen. She receives pressure from all sides and her naivete creates friction with the parliament, which sees her as young and inexperienced. She believes her government is out of touch with the people; meanwhile, the people sees her as as threat. She finds confidences in Albert by exchanging letters with him, asking for his advice. Their love grows even as their circumstances keep them apart. Sooner or later, though, Victoria must marry and only she can make the decision.
Emily Blunt (The Wolfman) is radiant, smart and spirited as the young Victoria. At 26, she also looks young enough to play the part. Blunt was the first and only choice for the film and it's a good choice. She understands the character, and is able to portray the famous monarch with a wide range of emotions, while giving her a contemporary feel. Rupert Friend (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas) is soft-spoken and tender as Albert, the love of Victoria's life. They both light up the screen, especially when they are together. They have a great chemistry with each other.
Paul Bettany (Inkheart) is adequately stoic and reserved as Lord Melbourne, Victoria's suitor, friend, and advisor. He's also obviously much older than Victoria, making us a bit uncomfortable with his intentions. Miranda Richardson (Fred Claus) is excellent as the Duchess of Kent, who may not be mother of the year but certainly loves her daughter as best as she knows how. Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes) has a brief but intense role as John Convoy, whose lust for power is his own downfall. Jim Broadbent (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) and Harriet Walter (Atonement) are both good as King William and Queen Adelaide respectively.
Written by Julianne Fellowes (Vanity Fair), who is a self-proclaimed expert on Queen Victoria, the screenplay is tight and dramatic, but surprisingly lax on its historical accuracies. Many critics have accused Fellowes for bending historical facts and embellishing events. However, isn't this what drama is about? At its core, Young Victoria is a love story. The historical setting is interesting and the political backdrop serves the purpose of giving the story some relevance. Still, the main focus is the relationship between Victoria and Albert. The film is, in general, romantic in tone and nature because of that.
Director Jean-Marc Vallée (C.R.A.Z.Y.) is not well-known or prolific, but his efforts pays off for The Young Victoria. The pacing is fine and the production is handsome. Because Sarah Ferguson is a producer, the filmmakers were able to shoot the film at various locations including palaces and castles, which give the film a much-appreciated authenticity. Its historical and political settings do at times sway the focus, especially when Albert disappears from the story (except through the letters Victoria wrote him) for an extensive period of time.
Young Victoria is a handsome film with interesting backstories and intrigue. We can enjoy it even if we're not history buffs. Given Blunt's spirited performance and the authenticity of the production, even though the story may not be historically correct, it's a biopic of which Queen Victoria herself might approve with her royal stamp.
Stars: Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, Paul Bettany, Miranda Richardson, Jim Broadbent, Thomas Kretschmann, Mark Strong, Harriet Walter
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Writer: Julian Fellowes
MPAA Rating: PG for mild sensuality, violence, and brief incidental smoking and drinking
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Script – 7
Performance – 8
Direction – 8
Cinematography – 8
Editing – 7
Production – 8
Total – 7.8 out of 10