Netflix UK film review: The Young Victoria
Ivan Radford | On 03, Jun 2014
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Cast: Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, Paul Bettany, Miranda Richardson
Watch The Young Victoria online in the UK: Netflix UK / TalkTalk TV / Apple TV (iTunes) / Amazon Instant Video
“I feel sure that no girl would go to the altar if she knew all.” Luckily for us, she doesn’t yet: at the age of 18, when Victoria (Blunt) became Queen, she was as green as Emerald City’s bottle recycling plant. Pushed and pulled, hither and thither, she was but a dainty pawn in the game of chess. Deary me, how frightful. But then one day along came Prince Albert (Friend), a man who could help the young Victoria to overcome her manipulative mother (Richardson) and the other plotters around her – notably the attractive PM, Lord Melbourne (Bettany), and her Uncle Leopold. Huzzah for Britain! And, er, Germany.
Brought to live by Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park and, of course, Downton Abbey), the goings-on in court circa 1837 are entertaining, if a little heavy-handed. “Do you ever feel like a chess piece yourself, in a game against your will?” asks Vicky, in the middle of playing chess. “Find a man to play it with you, not for you,” advises Albert, smirking at his own intelligence. It’s a metaphor! They’re playing chess and talking about chess, but not really! Oh tush, Julian, you can do better than that.
Despite the exposition-driven dialogue, though, Jean-Marc Vallée’s drama comes to life as things progress. With such an engaging pair, it’s hard not to get caught up in it all – who needs Parliamentary tension when you’ve got pet dogs, moustaches, Paul Bettany, and kissing in the rain? And that’s not to mention the sumptuous dresses and locations; as you would expect from a period biopic, the production design and costumes are lush. Almost as lush as Emily Blunt, who makes for a remarkably fit and rousingly independent-minded Queen.
In the face of her strong performance, the incredible thing is that Rupert Friend matches her measure for measure. He is every bit as charismatic as Blunt. When he takes a bullet for her (a contrived moment of fiction), you even forget that he looks like Orlando Bloom. V&A: the perfect match. You really can believe that the two of them had nine children together.
Held together by this royal partnership, The Young Victoria overcomes its clunky script. Victoria may not be Elizabeth I, but she certainly captivates her audience with a winning romance.
The Young Victoria is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.