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The Young Victoria review

Life before Billy Connolly…

When it comes to English queens, Elizabeth I trounces Victoria in screen popularity. There’s just something intrinsically more compelling about a female sovereign who went through her entire reign shrewdly playing men like chess pieces, rather than one who spent her last decades moping around palaces in widow-black, pining for her dead husband.

Directed by the barely-known Jean-Marc Vallée (C.R.A.Z.Y . ), this lush biopic sets out to redress our impressions of Victoria as pinch-mouthed Judi Dench by casting svelte Emily Blunt, draping her in a procession of rainbow-hued gowns and spinning her on a royal roundabout of dancing, prancing (on horseback) and furtive glancing (at Rupert Friend’s dishy Prince Albert).

Blunt makes a fine princess, fending off her bossy mother’s (Miranda Richardson) scheming advisor (Mark Strong); and an urgent, stroppy, young queen. If it’s not a Blanchett-esque triumph, it’s because Blunt is hampered by the film’s glossy, aspirational sheen, which purrs as a portrait of a mother-smothered adolescent, but toils to convey any real tension.

The film is more robust in handling her tentative steps into the quagmire of parliamentary politics. Vallée does a decent job of handling the disparate strands, keeping it clear which bewigged politico is which and shooting it all with elegant flair. Ultimately, the film’s bedrock is Victoria ’s burgeoning passion play with Albert, Friend poised to set hearts a-flutter with his compassionate portrayal of the German prince.

Depicting an imperial love match that spawned nine children, it’s earnest and heartfelt. But it’s also a reminder why Elizabeth still bags the movie-queen prize.

Rob James

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