The Young Victoria

When Queen Victoria, played by Emily Blunt, ascends the British throne in 1837, she is barely 18 years old. And for those 18 years, she is coddled and isolated in an attempt to make her dependent on her mother, the Duchess of Kent, played by Miranda Richardson and her adviser, Sir John Conroy, played by Mark Strong who seems to be making a living these days portraying Victorian baddies. But those two were hardly the only ones plotting to control the young monarch. The Whig prime minister, Lord Melbourne, played by Paul Bettany seeks to gain her favor in an attempt to remain in power. Her uncle, King Leopold of Belgium, played by Thomas Kretschmann sends his young nephew, Albert, played by Rupert Friend as a possible suitor in order to influence her.

Victoria, however, has ideas of her own and fortunately for her so does Albert, since they fall in love and marry. She is left to navigate these shark infested waters where she doesn’t know who she can trust with only her will and desire to be a good queen and later, once she learns to trust him, the help of Albert. That proves to be enough.

Biopics in general and especially those about royals are generally grand epics, lasting three hours or more. Young Victoria clocks in at under two hours and that just isn’t enough time. The filmmakers tried to address this by confining the story to Victoria’s maturation into a great queen and her love affair with Albert. But those two stories are not melded very well and we’re left with two distinct arcs. Either they didn’t have enough rewrites or they cut too much.

Another thing about biopics is that you can get away with a weak film if you have a strong central performance, which this film does. Emily Blount takes the critical title role and carries the movie, which is usually the way these things go. It is exciting to watch her Victoria mature and grow a backbone. She defies her mother and Sir John Conroy, not in the petulant way of all teenagers but with the imperious righteousness of a queen. People in the audience stood up and cheered.

The supporting roles, all played by European veterans are equally good. Rupert Friend is enjoyable to watch as he takes Albert from smart but awkward young man to assured councilor and protector of his wife’s interests. Paul Bettany is suave and kindly, giving us only a glimpse of his ulterior motives as Lord Melbourne. Miranda Richardson’s character isn’t as successful in hiding her agenda, but it is still a great performance, especially towards the end when she begins to regret what her actions have done to her relationship to her daughter.

The cinematography is beautiful. It’s all shot in palaces and gardens, which look sumptuous and yet lived in.

Queen Victoria had the longest reign of any British monarch and the longest reign of any Queen in history. She deserves a longer film.

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