One of the most fascinating things you can achieve in film is taking a story that seems decidedly difficult to spin into something interesting, and come up with an end result that is curiously mesmerizing. Of course, given different tastes the available subjects for the apparently dull by definition may include a wide variety of topics. Still, Princess Victoria and Prince Albert fall in love largely by mail in the early 1800s is a tough sell. Even adding in the fact that both of them are being hounded by those who want to take advantage of their potential power, it’s hard to imagine how the idea holds interest for any length of time.
The Young Victoria somehow manages not only to deliver a story that portrays its characters as outstandingly real people, but pulls you into itself to a degree that is almost unbelievable. Leaving you transfixed while you are at the same time unsure how it is managing to be interesting at all is a neat trick.
We begin with a quick rundown of Victoria’s early life, but move almost instantly to the era of importance, her late teens. She is next in line to the throne, and the king is not expected to live a great deal longer. Should he happen to die in the near future there are serious concerns about her age. Her mother, controlled by her husband, wants Victoria to agree to a regency. Meanwhile, Albert is being furiously groomed to be her groom, along with who knows how many other people of course.
They meet. They enjoy a vague non-dislike for each other. Then they come to a kind of mutual respect based on the lack of control over their own lives they find they have in common. Time passes, letters are exchanged, and beyond that it is rather hard to describe what actually happens, except that one day you wake up and realize you were in love all along, and simply weren’t aware of it.
Taking hold of you most are the performances of Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend. Part of what renders the bare story somewhat off-putting (except to hardcore fans of royalty) is simply the idea, and a fairly legitimate one it is, that these people actually aren’t real people. The ins and outs of daily life among the fabulously rich and powerful, whoever they are, is something that alienates a lot of viewers on its face. Here we are offered two of the most concrete people to make it on film in quite some time. Are they especially accurate from a historic perspective? I have no idea actually, but they were amazing to watch.
That a film, and a pair of actors, can take a story so removed from the universal perspective, and nevertheless make engaging, accessible, and believable statements about life in general is nothing short of spectacular. That it can do so while making a story that is at least somewhat languid by definition into something entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable is stunning.
Through the surprising lens of period perfection, writer Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park), director Jean-Marc Vallee, and (mainly) Emily Blunt come together to deliver the most powerfully simple statements through a veil of grandiose life. Love is love whoever you are, and sure, that’s an interesting message. More interesting is the ability to say, “I am born in a situation that I didn’t ask for, and don’t understand. I am doing the best I can with that. How am I so different from you?” – and manage it with a straight face.
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- Emily Blunt on the Queen and her heart (nationalpost.com)
- Review: Blunt rules with zest as `Young Victoria’ (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- The Young Victoria (cinemablend.com)
- The Young Victoria: How a Queen Shapes Her Destiny (time.com)