Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Young Victoria (2009) – Review

The Young Victoria is a charming look at the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign, shaping how she would rule as the longest sitting monarch in British history. The film mixes a bit of biography with that of a Victorian romance – showing both the love story between Victoria and Albert and the events that cast her initial endeavors as queen. The romance is mainly done through letters (conveyed to the audience through V.O. narration) and the building anticipation of the reception of each letter. When Victoria and Albert do meet, they must engage in polite reserved dialog, cognizant of both the proper manner by which they must conduct their affairs towards one and other and also being on guard, as to the motivations of their parents and others that would gain through their union. The film does this quite well, a credit to director Jean-Marc Vallee and screenwriter Julian Fellowes. Though, to audience members not interested in a reserved love story, or the strategy of politics, the film will feel quiet and unemotional. However, while the piece is not have many (if any) raw emotional scenes, due to the period and its dedication to it, there is a lot of emotion just below the surface, which the actors portray very well. Behind their refined faces, in their eyes, there is passion and love and hate and fear and longing and so on. The film is quite moving, should the viewer accept the world in which the film exists. Much like the series Rome, the film also has a lot of appeal in regards to seeing the behind the scenes workings of the monarch and their advisors, and with such great performances it is almost a shame that this was not a miniseries to fully exploit the full goings on at the palace and government. Technically, the film is beautiful to watch Vallee, production designer Patrice Vermette and cinematographer Hagen Bogdanski bring the world to life, enhanced by  Ilan Eshkeri's graceful score. The sets, the costumes, the anima of the world are elegant, as they should be. Eshkeri and Vallee use shifting plans of focus to effectively guide the viewer in their beautiful composition. Emily Blunt is wonderful as Victoria. She is able to capture the spirit of the character, being majestic and strong, but still allowing fear, love and other more carnal emotions to creep in. Rupert Friend is just as good as Albert. He both soft and stable; his chemistry with Blunt makes the romance narrative of the film radiate (and I look forward to his future roles). Paul Bettany, Jim Broadbent (great in a small role) and Mark Strong (always accompanied by flies, a funny touch) highlight the fine supporting performances. The Young Victoria is delightful to watch, features superb performances and works to tell both an engaging Victoria era love story and also a young girl’s rise to become a beloved and effective queen. 8/10

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