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December 23, 2009 > Movie Review: Young Victoria: A story of love, power, and youth

Movie Review: Young Victoria: A story of love, power, and youth

By Shavon Walker

"Young Victoria" might seem like a movie for history and Victoriana buffs, but it is, at heart, a political story with romance thrown in. Jean-Marc Valee has done an amazing job directing this film, and manages to draw viewers in instead of alienating them. He has help from a well chosen source - Sarah Ferguson, also known as the Duchess of York and sister-in-law to the late Princess Diana. There are no immediately recognizable superstars in this film, although viewers may recognize Emily Blount (Victoria) from "Sunshine Cleaning" and Rupert Friend (Albert) from "Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice". The very fact that the cast is low key forces viewers to see them as characters and not as big names playing a role.

In the movie, events of the week before young Princess Victoria's coronation as queen and the tumultuous days that follow are illustrated. In the beginning, she is controlled mostly by her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and Sir John Conroy, the duchess' private secretary and the man in charge of supervising accounting and finances within the palace. Victoria refuses to be completely controlled by them, however, and turns to the counsel of Lord Melbourne, the Prime Minister. Eventually, she meets Prince Albert from Germany, who has been sent to win the young girl's heart in order to convince her to send English troops to Germany. Their empathy for each other's situations cause them to fall in love. Through the people's riots and court intrigues, Albert is the support that Victoria needs to survive it all.

The best way to describe Emily Blount's Victoria is via her line to Albert during a ball: "I'm stronger than I look." She is both vulnerable and tough, coolly standing up to the previous Prime Minister and bursting into tears when she realizes her political mistakes have alienated her from Parliament and the citizens. Rupert Friend's Albert neither seeks to control Victoria nor to ignore her; he is very low key, yet determined. Miranda Richardson's Duchess of Kent shows as much vulnerability as her daughter. Initially, she presents herself as a weak willed woman subject to the whims of Sir Conroy, but we eventually realize that everything she has done has been meant to protect her daughter and maximize her chances of succeeding on the throne. Unfortunately, it has come at the cost of her relationship with Victoria. This is most powerfully illustrated when the Duchess glimpses Victoria crying in her room, her governess comforting her. Instead of walking in, the Duchess quietly turns and walks away.

Costumes for this film are period appropriate and beautiful. Amusingly enough, Victoria's gowns are slightly less ornate than the Duchess' robes. Nevertheless, she is always tastefully dressed without being gaudy. And every location is carefully chosen to emphasize the scene, from the immense church where Victoria is crowned queen to the firelit bedroom where she and Albert celebrate their wedding night.At the end, highlights from their relationship and reign are cut into a montage. This provides the viewer with an additional understanding of their impact on the monarchy, and England itself. One of the viewers noted that one of Albert's major contributions to British and American culture - the Christmas tree - was not covered in the highlights. It would seem seasonally appropriate to include it; the movie, however, premiered in the United Kingdom in March of this year, so the omission of this fact is easily explained.

This movie may be appropriate for older teens, but not necessarily younger children due to two somewhat violent scenes. In addition, it has already been nominated for a Golden Globe. All of these elements make it a great date movie, or perfect for a group night out. If you love good historical movies, then this is defintely a must see.

Runtime: 100 minutes
Rated: PG

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