Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Cast: Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, Paul Bettany, Miranda Richardson
"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), 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. A metaphor! It's a metaphor! They're playing chess and talking about chess, but not really! Oh come on, Julian, you can do better than that. Tush.
Despite the exposition-driven dialogue, 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 independent-minded) Queen.
But in the face of her strong performance, the incredible thing is that Rupert Friend matches her measure for measure. He is every bit as charming 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. It's no wonder the two of them had nine children. Held together by its royal partnership, The Young Victoria overcomes its clunky script. Victoria may not be Elizabeth I (she would win in a fight hands down), but she certainly captivates her audience.
Glossy and gorgeous, Britain's longest-serving monarch makes for a winning romance. God save the Queen. And all that.