The Young Victoria is proof that history can make great drama! It is the story of possibly our most famous queen, Victoria, and the turbulent early years of her reign and her illustrous romance with the young prince Albert. As soon as I watched it once, I had to watch it again. I have now watched it four times in three weeks, and I now have to tell you why it is one of, possibly the best, history films I have seen, and why you should see it too!
First of all, it is not the same old same old. History films usually consist of one or both of these two things: war and the Tudors. If it does not contain these two things then it has often not been put into film. How many films are there about World War Two? How many programmes/documentaries and films are going to be made of the Tudors before they finally exhaust the topic? Of course, World War Two is very important, every one knows some one who was involved in it or lived through it or died in it, and of course it is important not to forget it. Making what happened into a vivid and often moving film can help millions of people come to terms with what happened. But making a film about it is not something new. And there is no doubt about it: The Tudors make good drama. You could make a soap opera out of the lives of the Tudor monarchs. The political intrigues of the English Reformation, Henry VIII's very complicated love life, and the plots and lack of marriages in Elizabeth I's reign - all these can certainly captivate an audience. The interest in old Henry might be partly helped by his admirer, David Starkey.But the Tudors and the War also have one thing in common, they are both on the school curriculum. Queen Victoria, I hasten to add - and I am about to get to the point - is usually not. If she is the focus, it is on the older, children-must-be-seen-and-not-heard perception of her, which seems to characterise the later part of her reign, as shown in the film on that part of her life, Mrs Brown. The Young Victoria is in keeping with the new fashion, and what seems to slowly becoming the norm, of focusing on something that is not war or the Tudors. At school I studied the Tudors and the English Civil War, the next year I was straight on to World War I, it was only at university that I realised there was a two hundred year gap in which quite a lot of exciting and very interesting things happened, and people ought to know about them. Following the trend of Amazing Grace, and the Duchess, both involving late eighteenth century/early nineteenth century issues, the Young Victoria is a fresh, new, historical drama that offers insight into a normally unstudied period in British history.
What makes this film so great is the fact that it is able to draw on Victoria and Albert's achievements which are visible across London, and among much of the rest of the country, in the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal Albert Hall and the Albert Memorial. The love they had for each other is clear even now, and so from this point of view, one might ask why this had not been made into a film before. It shows Victoria to be a strong-willed caring liberal, who after a shrouded upbringing, will not be stopped by anyone in taking her destined place in the world.
Since I have not studied Victoria's reign in any details I can not attest to its historical accuracy or inaccuracy. I suspect there is somewhere some poetic license, but I think as long as it does not completely rewrite what happens, this is a good thing if it helps the film to sell. The story is this. At the start of the film Victoria is a young princess, the niece of King William IV, she has been kept away from his court by her mother, and her adviser, Lord Conroy, who have restricted her in many ways, from making her walk down the stairs accompanied at all times, to stopping her from reading novels. She lives a secluded life, where she is effectively imprisoned. There are all these people trying to control her, while at the same time, Albert, a handsome German prince, (who is also her cousin) has been sent to woo her. As well as being about Victoria growing up, finding her heart and adapting to life as a new Queen, it has the typical dramatic recipe of political intrigue and scandal.
Not only does it deal with a relatively unique topic, and offer drama galore, it is also a beautiful film with a beautiful cast and excellent cinematography! The script is superb, making an exellent blend of history, drama and subtle humour. Emily Blunt (from The Devil Wears Prada) who takes on the role of Victoria brilliantly, performing the script in a way that is funny and intriguing. Every line and backward glance seems to have been mastered with supreme accuracy and poignancy! Her scenes with Rupert Friend, who plays Prince Albert, are so cute and captures the depth of their love for each other. Friend also offers an amazing performance. Other notably amazing performances come from Jim Broadbent, who plays the aging William IV, and Paul Bettany, who plays Lord Melbourne, Victoria's advisor and (for some of the film at least) the Liberal Prime Minister.
The film is a ray of light in the collection of history film. It is so colourful and evocative, as it takes you inside the hidden life of the early Victorian Royal Family at every turn. The colours on screen seem to have been chosen perfectly to suit the mood being displayed on the screen. And the music makes the film gripping and emotional in all the right places. It has a beautiful soundtrack, 'Only You' by Sinead O'Connor, which I had never heard, but now I think is one of the most beautiful songs I have heard. It still makes me cry after hearing it many times.
This is a beautiful film directed by Jean-Marc Vallee. Historical drama at its finest. Every one should watch it, and get other people to watch it!