Trying to describe to you why you should see The Young Victoria is like trying to describe why you need to see The Sistine Chapel, you can’t. You just have to go, and then you know. Now that may be a strong comparison but once you stack up all of the great things that this film has, it’s not so crazy.
There is outstanding acting by Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend, and especially Mark Strong as the villain of this true story. Emily Blunt played Victoria beautifully. With a simple hop and a skip down the hall, you could see that even though she is a young adult, she has never fully grown up. She easily portrayed love, fear, sadness, and anger flawlessly.
Rupert Friend was very convincing as the young man in love with the Queen. It became very easy to see how he was troubled with being in love with someone he can’t propose to. Mark Strong was menacing as Sir John Conroy. Victoria had a hate for him most of her life and we go right along with her. Some of the situations were probably fantasized a bit for theatrics, but it worked well for the story. Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent played by Miranda Richardson had a remarkable performance of simplicity and Paul Bettany played the cunning Lord Melbourne so well, you wondered at every turn if he was genuine, or plotting something.
The story doesn’t stray too far from the reality of Queen Victoria’s life and stays very intriguing. Princess Victoria was born in 1819 and was destined to be queen, when all other family members had failed to produce an heir, her family knew from a young age that she would be queen one day. It was because of this that Victoria was sheltered from any real life and forced to sleep in the same room with her mother and always have someone hold her hand while walking down the steps. Something her mother and Sir John Conroy invented called, The Kensington System to protect her. Victoria was not fond of the system and had only her dog, Dash to be her best friend.
Before she was even queen, her family was attempting to arrange a marriage with her cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha played by Rupert Friend. The relationship that develops between Victoria and Albert was fascinating to watch and a breath of fresh air. He seemed to be the only thing in her life that was interested in her, rather than her position. She describes herself as a chess piece in a game being played against her will. Even with all of the political nonsense that went on in her life, she stayed strong and maintained a sense of character. It was obvious that everyone in her life had a second agenda when proposing something to her, for example, Sir John Conroy wanted desperately to be the Princess’ regent before she turned 18, so he could essentially rule England, but she would never sign over her rights. It was principle like this that lead her to becoming a strong and well liked Queen in her rule.
The Young Victoria is not your typical period piece film about politics, monarchy and well-to-do Brits. Instead, it is about love. I am not the usual fan of period piece films of any kind, but this one surprised me with it’s charm, love and beautiful art direction. In fact, I liked it so much that I want to PAY to go see it again. The story forms an interesting path by choosing to show only about five years or so of Victoria’s life, rather than the entire spectrum of her rule. This is what will label this as a love story.
The musical score is pitch-perfect, mending to our emotions while staying in period-theme. The use of silence was wonderful as well. When a serious event had occurred, Jean-Marc Vallée felt the best way to show this was with silence, like a car accident (imagine how life slows down and everything seems to silence). However, the direction is what makes The Young Victoria truly magnificent. Jean-Marc Vallée takes what could have been a very ordinary period piece story and blows the roof off. The cinematography used is extraordinary as he uses the lens focusing on certain parts of the frame that paint the story. The King’s Birthday dinner scene is one of my favorites as you see the servants lining up the glasses on the table in a straight line and as if they appear one after another, the camera comes into focus on the glasses as they go down the table, maybe fifty or so.
The dance that occurs after her coronation was also a favorite scene of mine. Victoria and Albert have only been communicating through letters and have grown very fond of one another. When she sees him at the ball, it is as if her heart melts right there on the screen as she is whisked away from everyone else in the room and silence falls over the two as they start their first dance.
Vallée was brilliant with emotion from the cast. There was a lot that was said just with a look between two characters, he didn’t just use faces though. At the arc of the story, Victoria’s mother (being back at the palace, away from Victoria) knows something bad has happened and we see a close up on her forearm and the hair raising up off of her skin, wow. Seeing that made my hair stand up.
If going to see this for the brilliance in cinematography and directing isn’t enough for you, not to mention the outstanding costumes, consider as well, that this is a great human story and very humbling. It was surprising to feel like the everyday person has something in common with a Queen. Which is probably part of why she was well liked over her reign.
The people of England took pride in the name Victoria, hence the term Victorian Era which came from the Queen’s ethics and personal tastes, which mainly reflected those of the middle class. Queen Victoria has the longest reign of any female monarch in history. Her story is amazing on paper, so it is no wonder that this made for a very riveting film.
I give The Young Victoria 5 “man’s Queen’s best friend portraits” out of 5.
by Angela Davis