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Apart from having the longest reign in British history (63 years),
Queen Victoria also holds two other distinctions. She was, apart from
our current Queen, the oldest ever British monarch, living to the age
of 81. And she was also the youngest ever British (as opposed to
English or Scottish) monarch, coming to the throne as a girl of
eighteen. And yet whenever television or the cinema make a programme or
film about her, they seem far more interested in the older Victoria
than they do in the young girl; the version of Victoria with which
modern audiences will probably be most familiar is Judi Dench in "Mrs
Brown". "The Young Victoria" tries to redress the balance by showing us
the events surrounding her accession and the early years of her reign.
It has the rare distinction of being produced by a former Royal, Sarah
Duchess of York, whose daughter Princess Beatrice makes a brief
appearance as an extra.
There are three main strands to the plot. The first concerns the intrigues of Victoria's mother, the Duchess of Kent, a highly unpopular figure even with her own daughter, largely because of the influence of her adviser Sir John Conroy, who was widely rumoured to be her lover. (According to one unfounded rumour he, and not the late Duke of Kent, was Victoria's natural father). The second strand concerns the growing romance between Victoria and her German cousin Prince Albert, and the attempts of King Leopold of Belgium, who was uncle to both of them, to influence this romance. (Leopold's hope was to increase the prestige of the House of Saxe-Coburg, to which both he and Albert belonged). The third concerns one of the strangest episodes in British political history, the Bedchamber Crisis of 1839, when supporters of the Tory Party (which had traditionally supported a strong monarchy) rioted because the young Queen was perceived to favour the Whig Party and their leader Lord Melbourne, even though the Whigs had historically supported a quasi-republican system of government, with the monarch reduced to a figurehead.
Scriptwriter Julian Fellowes is known for his Conservative views, and at times I wondered if this may have coloured his treatment of political themes, as he seems to lean to the side of the Tories, the predecessors of the modern Conservative party. Their leader Robert Peel is shown as statesmanlike and dignified, whereas Melbourne, for all his dash and charm, is shown as devious and uninterested in social reform. There may be some truth is these characterisations, but Fellowes glosses over the fact that only a few years earlier the Tories had opposed the Reform Act, which ended the corrupt electoral system of rotten boroughs, and that they had benefited from William IV's unconstitutional dismissal of a Whig administration.
Lessons in dynastic and constitutional history do not always transfer well to the cinema screen, and this one contains its share of inaccuracies. Prince Albert, for example, was not injured in Edward Oxford's attempt on Victoria's life, and Melbourne (in his late fifties at the time of Victoria's accession) was not as youthful as he is portrayed here by Paul Bettany. King William IV certainly disliked the Duchess of Kent (who was his sister-in-law), but I doubt if he would have gone so far as to bawl abuse at her during a state banquet, as he is shown doing here. I also failed to understand the significance of the scene in which the Duchess and Conroy try to force Victoria to sign a "Regency Order"; the Duchess's constitutional position was made clear by the Regency Act 1830, which provided that she would become Regent if her daughter was still under eighteen at the time of her accession. No piece of paper signed by Victoria could have altered the provisions of the Act.
There are also occasional infelicities. In one early scene we see Victoria and Albert playing chess while comparing themselves to pawns being moved around a chessboard, a metaphor so hackneyed that the whole scene should have come complete with a "Danger! Major cliché ahead!" warning. Yet in spite of scenes like this, I came to enjoy the film. There were some good performances, especially from Miranda Richardson as the scheming Duchess and Mark Strong as the obnoxious Conroy. It is visually very attractive, being shot in sumptuous style we have come to associate with British historical drama. Jim Broadbent gives an amusing turn as King William, although he does occasionally succumb to the temptation of going over the top. (Although not as disastrously over the top as he was in "Moulin Rouge").
The main reason for the film's success, however, is the performances of Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend as the two young lovers Victoria and Albert. Blunt is probably more attractive than Victoria was in real life, but in her delightful portrayal the Queen is no longer the old lady of the popular imagination, the black-clad Widow of Windsor who was perpetually not amused, but a determined, strong-minded and loving young woman. Her love for Albert, and their happy family life together, was one of the main reasons why the monarchy succeeded in reestablishing itself in the affections of the British people. (With the exception of George III, Victoria's Hanoverian ancestors had been notoriously lacking in the matrimonial virtues). Blunt and Friend make "The Young Victoria" a touching romance and a gripping human drama as well as an exploration of a key period in British history. 8/10
I went into this expecting not to like it; I figured it would be
terribly worthy and earnest, and rather plodding and dull.
It's actually far better than that, and I found myself really enjoying it. I don't know too much about Queen Victoria beyond what most know - married to Albert, who died young, and she mourned him ever after. Seeing the circumstances she grew up under was fascinating; in fact I found myself wishing I'd seen more of the story, and I imagine we may see a sequel at some point.
Visually the film is stunning. The sets and costumes are incredibly lavish without being too gaudy and over the top. The acting is top notch from everybody involved.
In a word, it was great!
Despite some reviews being distinctly Luke-warm, I found the story totally engrossing and even if some critics have described the love story as 'Mills and Boon', so what? It is good to see a warm, touching story of real love in these cynical times. Many in the audience were sniffing and surreptitiously dabbing their eyes. You really believe that the young Victoria and Albert are passionately fond of each other, even though, for political reasons, it was an arranged marriage. I did feel though that Sir John Conroy, who was desperate to control the young Queen, is perhaps played too like a pantomime villain. As it is rumoured that he was in fact, the real father of Victoria (as a result of an affair with her mother The Duchess of Kent) it would have been interesting to explore this theory. Emily Blunt is totally convincing as the young Princess, trapped in the stifling palace with courtiers and politicians out to manipulate her. She brilliantly portrays the strength of character and determination that eventually made Victoria a great Queen of England, which prospered as never before, under her long reign. I believe word of mouth recommendations will ensure great success for this most enjoyable and wonderful looking movie.
The 63 year reign of Queen Victoria is perhaps one of the most
documented and popularly known historical reigns in British history. On
the one hand, her story lacks the theatrics of earlier royals thanks to
a change in social climate and attitudes, and on the other her story is
one that perpetuates because it is notably human. Taking on the earlier
years of her life where the budding romance between herself and the
German Prince Albert was taking forefront, director Jean-Marc Vallée
who has only until recently remained in the unbeknownst shadows of the
industry here takes Victoria's story and captures that human element so
vital to her legacy. It's a story that feels extremely humble
considering its exuberant background, and yet that's partly what gives
it a distinct edge here that separates it from the usual fare.
Taking a very direct and focused approach that centres in on a brief five or so year period between her ascension and marriage to Albert, The Young Victoria does what so little period pieces of this nature offer. Instead of attempting a sprawling encapsulation of such a figure's entire life, Vallée instead opts to show one of the lesser known intricacies of Victoria's early years which are easily overlooked in favour of the more publicly known accolades. The result is a feature that may disgruntle historians thanks to its relatively flippant regards to facts and the like, yet never to let document get in the way of extracting a compelling story, writer Julian Fellowes sticks to his guns and delivers a slightly romanticised yet convincing portrayal. Vallée takes this and runs, making sure to fully capitalise on those elements with enough restraint to maintain integrity in regards to both the history involved and the viewer watching.
A major part in the joy of watching The Young Victoria play out however simply lies in the production values granted here that bring early 1800's Regal Britain to life with a vigorous realism so rarely achieved quite so strikingly by genre films. Everything from the costume designs, sets, hair styles, lighting and photography accentuates the grandiose background inherent to Victoria's story without ever over-encumbering it. Indeed, while watching Vallée's interpretation come to life here it is very hard not to be sucked in solely through the aesthetics that permeates the visual element; and then there's the film's score also which works tremendously to further the very elegant yet personal tones that dominate Fellowes' script. Entwining the works of Schubert and Strauss into Victoria and Albert's story not only works as a point of reference for the characters to play with, but also melds to the work with an elegance and refrain that echoes composer Ilan Eshkeri's original work just as well.
Yet for all the poignant compositions, lush backdrops and immaculate costumes that punctuate every scene, the single most important factor hereand indeed to most period dramasare the performances of the cast and how they help bring the world they exist in to life. Thankfully The Young Victoria is blessed with an equally immaculate ensemble of thespians both young and old that do a fantastic job of doing just that. Between the sweet, budding romance of Victoria (Emily Blunt) and Albert (Rupert Friend) and the somewhat antagonistic struggles of her advisors and the like (spearheaded by a terrific Mark Strong and Paul Bettany), the conflicts and warmth so prevalent to Fellowe's screenplay are conveyed perfectly here by all involved which helps keep the movie from being a plastic "nice to look at but dim underneath" affair so common with these outings.
In the end, it's hard to fault a work such as The Young Victoria. It's got a perfectly touching and human sense of affection within its perfectly paced romance, plus some historical significance that plays as an intriguing source of interest for those in the audience keen on such details. Of course, it may not take the cinematic world by storm and there lacks a certain significance to its overall presence that stops it from ever becoming more than just a poignantly restrained romantic period drama; yet in a sense this is what makes it enjoyable. Vallée never seems to be striving for grandeur, nor does he seem content at making a run-of-the-mill escapist piece for aficionados. Somewhere within this gray middle-ground lies The Young Victoria, sure to cater to genre fans and those a little more disillusioned by the usual productions; beautiful, memorable but most of all, human.
- A review by Jamie Robert Ward (http://www.invocus.net)
Princess Victoria (Emily Blunt) is in line for the throne of England. The present King William (Jim Broadbent) is not well and may not live long. However, Vicky's scheming mother, The Duchess of Kent (Miranda Richandson) and her aide, John (Mark Strong) want to force Victoria to sign papers declaring them to be the "regents" until she is older, since she is only 20 years of age. The young lady refuses, despite John slapping her around. It is another sign that Victoria has a strong will and deep love for her country. Yet, when William does pass away, shortly after her 21st birthday, Victoria knows she has a heavy duty before her. First, she must surround herself with the "right" advisers to govern wisely. She chooses handsome Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany) who, although an older man, is mentioned as a suitor for Vicky. Which brings us to the young queen's second major decision. Sooner than not, the young queen should select her future mate, as it will bring stability to her life and to those of the kingdom, for an heir must appear in the coming years. Meanwhile, in Germany, some distant relatives of the British royal family are hatching some plans as well. Handsome Prince Albert (Rupert Friend), of the Saxon-Coburg dynasty, is prodded by his father to court the young English royal. Once he arrives at the palace, he is smitten and the feeling seems to be mutual. But, since he is a minor player on the map of royal match-making, can he succeed in winning her heart? This is a lovely film, made even better by a completely winning performance by Emily Blunt as Victoria. Yes, she is beautiful but it is her intelligent reading of the role that scores mightily. Friend, too, does well, as do the other actors, including Broadbent, Richardson, Bettany, Strong (what a repulsive role!), and the rest. Also, the movie is gorgeously shot, costumed, and set, making it a visual treat in every way. If anything is lacking, it is an extra dose of dazzle, as the film seems a bit too straightforward and prosaic, at times, with a somewhat unimaginative edit. However, this is only a minor, minor point of argument in an overall very successful and gorgeous film. In short, young and old, should make time for Young Victoria. It is a most worthy film among 2009 cinematic offerings.
Sometimes I'm glad that my grasp of English history is pathetically
feeble. It makes movies like "The Young Victoria" much more suspenseful
than they might otherwise be. I of course knew that Victoria reigned
for a large part of the 19th century and that she died in 1901; I also
knew that she was a renowned and powerful monarch. I didn't know much
about her love life, and "The Young Victoria" filled that gap in my
Emily Blunt plays Victoria with a distinctly modern edge of feminism which may feel a bit anachronistic to picky historian purists but which also works. After all, women like Victoria WERE the feminists of their time, forced into making their mark in what was largely a man's world by a man's terms. I'm convinced that Blunt is one of the most promising of today's young actors. She has tremendous presence on screen; while she's on it, you don't want to look anywhere else. That presence is somewhat wasted in this movie, because her biggest competition comes not from any other actors but from the period sets and costumes. But she gives this rather light and inconsequential film some substance by virtue of simply being in it.
Rupert Friend plays Albert, the man Victoria eventually marries, while Paul Bettany plays her chief adviser and confidant, the man angling to get himself married to her for his own political gain. The cast of British regulars also includes Jim Broadbent, who gets crazier with every role he plays, Miranda Richardson, as Victoria's doormat of a mother, and, notable in a small role, Harriet Walter as Victoria's widowed aunt and the only person other than her eventual husband who gives her any advice that's worth a damn.
This film is about the life of Queen Victoria during her youth and her
first few years as the monarch of Great Britain.
"The Young Victoria" has amazing production. Every scene is designed and decorated to immaculate detail. The extravagant costumes, lavish locations and beautifully landscaped gardens all make "The Young Victoria" very impressive. I was the most amazed by the thoughtful cinematography. How every person is placed in relation to the background or foreground is well thought out, every scene is well composed. The scene that strikes me the most was when Victoria talks to Melbourne. Melbourne was positioned in the middle of the door frame from Victoria's angle, while from Melbourne's angle Victoria was situated between the space where Melbourne held his arm on his hips.
Story wise, it is far too compressed to be followed and understood by a person without historical knowledge of Queen Victoria. Many events are rushed through or not even explained. I expected a grand scene of the coronation, and disappointingly it only lasted for a few seconds.
Overall, "The Young Victoria" is a good film, and it would have been even better if it was longer, so that events could be properly explained without rush.
Greetings again from the darkness. Emily Blunt would have stolen The
Devil Wears Prada if not for the queen of screen, Meryl Streep. Here
she competes with no one and does a nice job of carrying the film based
on the early years of Queen Victoria. If you are rusty on your British
sovereign history, she ruled from 1837-1901.
For 20 of these years, she was married to her true love, Prince Albert (played well by Rupert Friend). While the two meet as youngsters, the bond between them comes from their letters ... an early precursor to eHarmony?? We know Victoria mostly from royal portraits, so it's nice to see her as a rebellious youngster trying to learn the tricks of the trade, even while being manipulated like a pawn by her mother (Miranda Richardson) and her lover (Mark Strong). We get to see her tenacity blossom as she matures and literally grows into the monarchy.
While Ms. Blunt's performance is strong, Julian Fellowes' writing is not at the level of his previous work in Gosford Park. We do get some of the same power plays, but it is missing the nuances of that much better film.
The cinematic interests in the British monarchy continues with The
Young Victoria (1837 to 1901), after having seen in recent years, the
efforts with Keira Knightley's The Duchess, Cate Blanchett's Elizabeth
films, and Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman's take on the Boleyn
sisters with The Other Boleyn Girl. More contemporary stories would
include Helen Mirren's award winning portrayal of The Queen on the
current reign of Queen Elizabeth II at the turn of Princess Diana's
Each of the films mentioned featured stunning actresses with acting gravitas (ok, so some may dispute Johansson) or were the flavour of their moment, and each film had a definitive moment in their historical character's legacy that it becomes a no brainer to have those events featured, and in fact Elizabeth had enough to span two films. However, The Young Victoria, as the title already suggests, is a lite-version of the young queen's life, and if you're looking for that definitive event, or the staple political intrigue that plague all royal households and their dealings with shady, self-serving politicians, unfortunately there's nothing of depth here.
That's not to say The Young Victoria is without. Directed by Canadian Jean-Marc Vallee (best known for CRAZY) and written by Julian Fellowes, this film chronicles in very plain terms, ,the life and times of Victoria (Emily Blunt, soon becoming the new It girl) when she was a child, the troubles she faced before Coronation such as the eagerness of her mom The Duchess of Kent (Miranda Richardson) and her adviser Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong) to appoint themselves as joint-Regent to her throne, as already planned for by reigning King William (Jim Broadbent). As if that wasn't enough, the political power play enters the picture with Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany) being a Prime Minister-in-waiting trying to gain the trust of the new Queen, and subtly plants his own trusted allies into positions within the palace. On one hand you'd understand the need for a young, and new Queen to have trusted people in key positions, but on the other, are they really acting in her interests, or in the interests of others?
Even this angle of intrigue creeps into her romantic story with Prince Albert (Rupert Friend), where their relationship forms the bulk of the second half of the film, and pretty much everything already included in the trailers. For both, they've been brought up under the influence of others, and told each step of the way exactly what to do. Even their union may seem like a firm registration of an alliance, if not for both lovers recognizing their common need to establish their own grounding, and to do so with the help of each other. Instead of being pawns, there's this constant search and probing of opportunities to break out of stifling, and at times absurd, rules and regulations. Trust also becomes a much valued commodity, and loyalty too can be traded for wanting to set the slate clean.
However, all these themes become but a breeze through the narrative, from childhood to romance, marriage and children. In fact, there's so much fast-forwarding here, especially the last few minutes filled with inter-titles, that it actually leaves the audience wanting for more, and room of course for another movie, which I suspect would probably not see the light of day, but perhaps a television series might pick up on the film's response, and come out with a mini-series or such. It's a pity that all the effort here in ensuring the gorgeous costumes, sets and art direction would be confined to a film that's quite lightweight in theme and brief mention of issues, that they don't really challenge the protagonists in order to allow for some overcoming of character-defining adversary.
With its star-studded cast, one would expect more, but one would be left wanting more instead. Recommended for those who are ever curious about Kings and Queens in the British Monarchy, only as a complement to other more engaging stories available in the other films already mentioned.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
And that's why historic/biographic movies are so important to all of
us, moreover when they are so well done, like this one!
Before I saw "The Young Victoria", I knew a few things about Queen Victoria, but in the end I got much more knowledge about it.
Emily Blunt is simply GREAT as Victoria (Who would guess that!) and She probably will get a nomination at this years Oscar's. Personally, I'm cheering for her...
For technical issues, I am pleased to say that is a very successful production, with wonderful Art Direction/Set Decoration and, of course, like It was expected to be, a terrific periodic Costume Design!
The one drawback is that I want to see more and know more about this interesting queen, but foremost, incredible woman and mother!
BRAVO: 9 out of 10!
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