While this is not a film that everyone will appreciate it certainly does a great job of introducing us to the 'human' side of another female monarch (as the "Elizabeth" films did). It also cements the fact that Emily Blunt is a young actress to look out for.
The young Victoria (Emily Blunt) is the heir to the British throne. As her father is deceased and her uncle, King William (Jim Broadbent – Iris, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince), is on his last legs, it will be soon that the not quite 18-year-old Victoria assumes the throne. After King William dies the pressure on the young girl is amped up.
The headstrong girl is feeling pressure from her mother, the Duchess of Kent (Miranda Richardson – Sleepy Hollow, The Crying Game), and her adviser, Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong – Sherlock Holmes, Body of Lies) to sign over regency (basically control of the throne). Victoria, in her usual stubborn way, refuses.
Besides this pressure from inside her own family, Victoria becomes part of various political power plays. King Leopold of Belgium (Thomas Kretschmann – Valkyrie, Wanted) sends his young nephew, Prince Albert (Rupert Friend – The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Cheri) to 'insinuate' himself into Victoria's life and hopefully her bed. King Leopold desperately needs England as an ally. From inside her own country, Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany – The Secret Life of Bees, The Da Vinci Code), the present Prime Minister of England, also positions himself as Queen Victoria's personal secretary – meaning that he has a great amount of influence over the Queen. The opposition claims that the young Queen is playing favourites. A scandal ensues.
Inside of all this chaos and turmoil the young Queen Victoria finds herself falling for Albert, who has gone against his uncle and refused to use Victoria. Albert genuinely cares for Victoria. The two young people refuse to be pawns in other peoples' games and in this they form a lasting bond.
What is it about the British monarchy that draws us in so? Their craziness? Inbreeding? Haughtiness? Glamourous lifestyle? More than any other country's monarchy they seem to capture us. Whatever it is it seems like we cannot have enough of them. Especially the queens. Elizabeth I, Elizabeth II and now Victoria.
As the title of the film indicates this is a window into the life of the young Queen Victoria. There is no particular war or event that the film is centered around. It is really about a young woman coming into her own, falling in love and marrying the man she loves. It is in essence a love story. We should not judge it based on historical content. Director Jean-Marc Vallée (C.R.A.Z.Y.) and screenwriter Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park, Vanity Fair) did not mean it to be a film that educates us about this time in the monarchy or the history of England. Which is not to say that the film is complete fiction either. It does, however, focus on the early relationship of Victoria and Albert.
Emily Blunt is really the film. She embodies the youthful and headstrong Victoria. With a mere look or a few words she has us understanding the difficult position this young woman who became England's queen at a very young age was thrust into. Blunt seems to be one of those rare actresses who can tackle a variety of roles and do them well. She has done vampy (Charlie Wilson's War), funny (The Devil Wears Prada), repressed (The Jane Austen Book Club), and simply a mess (Sunshine Cleaning). Despite her good looks she shows no signs of allowing herself to by typecast as the girlfriend or the like. Her performance is the primary reason to see this film.
The film is at times solemn and slow (very British), but always interesting. So much so that I think I would enjoy a sequel. The film leaves off very early in the reign of Victoria. She and Albert have just had their first child (they had nine in total) and just begun their 20 year reign together. There's more story to be told and the film left me yearning for more.