Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Young Victoria

On Thursday I saw The Young Victoria, starring Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend.

The longest reigning female monarch, Queen Victoria, had a very melancholy childhood. Her mother raised her in a cold, isolated environment so she wouldn't be exposed to anyone that would influence her unfavorably. As a result, Victoria had no friends (save for her dog) nor private time, as her mother shared a bedroom with her until she became queen (at age 18). Her mother believed she as a regent, and later Victoria as queen, would restore the good name of the monarchy that had been tarnished in recent years due to the less-than-honorable behavior exhibited by her deceased husband's family.

Unfortunately for her mother, there was never a need for a regent, so when it was time for Victoria to assume the crown, she turned the tables on her and moved her to another part of the palace where she wouldn't interfere. Shortly thereafter, Victoria also married the man she was in love with (her first cousin, Prince Albert) and ruled the way she wanted to rule, confiding in a close political adviser for much of the time.

This film traces that portion of the legendary Queen's life and goes no further than her young, married years. Emily Blunt was in fact perfectly cast to play the role, as she can appear both delicately innocent and brilliantly controlling at once. The real monarch's complexities were revealed clearly in everything from Blunt's posture to the adoring way she looked at her on-screen husband (Friend).

He doesn't do such a bad job either—Friend is enamored, but not desperate over the young beauty, and perfectly conveys this in his portrayal of Albert. He gives him enough of a backbone to be respected, but balances that with a tenderness to be envied.

The film doesn't do a remarkable job explaining why the country turns on Victoria early in her reign, nor how she reclaims their trust, but it does create a beautiful couple in the two main characters, who by all accounts really did love one another until the end.

If you can make it through the chess games and important conversations between those fighting for control over the young queen, watching this will prove to be a pleasurable experience, mostly due to Blunt's flawless performance.

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