Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend in The Young Victoria

{The Young Victoria opens in Seattle on Christmas Day, Friday, December 25th at The Meridian and The Metro}

Movie fans who love period costume dramas learn to expect certain things—tragedy, betrayal, depression and lots of death. They also learn to be wowed by sets and clothing, but sometimes, not much else. Fortunately, The Young Victoria stands out with exceptional casting, interesting camera work, and believe it or not, a relatively uplifting story.  

Under the influence of Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong), Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent (Miranda Richardson), keeps her daughter under lock & key since birth, to the point where she’s not allowed to descend or ascend stairs without holding an adult’s hand. The master plan being that Victoria will become Queen while she’s a minor and sign over all ruling powers to her mother by “regency”—with Sir John taking the lead on the whole ruling thing.  Fate intervenes via loud-mouthed drunkard King William (Jim Broadbent, maybe hamming it up a little too much here), who hates the Duchess and Conroy so much, he pretty much refuses to die before Victoria turns 18.

And so, he does, just barely after her birthday. She’s crowned, immediately rebels against her parental oppressors, and decides to shockingly use her newfound power to try to like, help people and stuff. Of course, there are other people intent on using her as their pawn. Smarmy Lord Melbourne (a seriously mutton-chopped Paul Bettany) slides into her confidence using his well-practiced smile & charm, and Uncle King Leopold of Belgium trains Prince Albert (Rupert Friend) to orchestrate a seduction in order to gain England as his country’s ally.

Without giving too much away (unless you’re a history buff), for once, the good & honest people triumph, and one of the sweetest, most realistic romances ever seen on film emerges. The chemistry between Victoria and Albert is white hot, and as the young Queen, Emily Blunt commands the screen with such grace and ease that I’m surprised it took this long for her to get such a great starring role.

Director Jean-Marc Vallee blows out each fantastically-acted scene with intimate shots, suspenseful lingering, and a few fancy pants camera tricks that add both depth and interest. We’ve seen Victoria in many incarnations before, but never as vulnerable and accessible as this. A must-see!