The Young Victoria is another movie in the long line of limey biopics that raged through the previous decade; (not that I’m complaining in the least!). While it isn’t the first dramatisation of the monarch’s reign, the film certainly is a refreshing take on the subject. Further, it serves as a very charming reminder to us that even Victoria, a rather dumpy, permanently severe figurehead in most of our minds, was a young woman once.
Princess Alexandrina Victoria, heiress presumptive to the British throne, is subjected to the intricate “Kensington System”. In other words, she lives in a perpetual prison, albeit a terribly pretty one. At the age of 17, Victoria continues to sleep in the same room as her mother, must hold another’s hand when descending the stairs and has only one friend: a spaniel by the name of Dash. More sinister though are the two who hold the young princess captive: Victoria’s mother the Duchess of Kent and the Duchess’s consort, the ambitious but deftly manipulative Sir John Conroy. Upon the death of her uncle, Victoria eagerly ascends to the throne, much to the displeasure of Conroy, among many others in the political arena.It is these early years of Queen Victoria’s reign, a time of excitement and uncertainty for our determined young heroine, that the filmfocuses on.
As Victoria, Emily Blunt is perfectly charming. She captures the essence of the queen’s public persona very well; the headstrong woman driven by an enormous sense of duty and personal responsibility to serve her country. Also, Victoria is unafraid to express her vulnerabilities, which, I believe, is a fantastic testament to her unfailing strength of character. At the same time, we are allowed an intimate window into the more personal side of the young Victoria. It is in this aspect that the film succeeds. The young queen’s girlish fascination with the handsome Prince Albert is amusingly delightful; and when their steady, rather reserved courtship blossoms into real love, one can’t help but smile.
Like all period films, the power of The Young Victoria lies in the conveyance of a particular time and place. In this case, the time period is, of course, the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign. The film accomplishes this task brilliantly. Placed in the capable hands of Sandy Powell, our character’s costumes have the sumptuous appearance of an extravagant and long gone era. Meticulous attention to detail is seen everywhere in the movie, from the queen’s corded petticoats to the fantastically unusual hairstyles that the movie’s various women habitually sport.
The Young Victoria has a fault though, and while it is a single problem, it is nevertheless quite a crucial one. The majority of period films thrive on tension and conflict, repressed passion completely streaming forth. In fact, I would go as far as saying all movies, all stories actually, (even those quasi-art films which seemingly talk of nothing) rely heavily on conflict. And while The Young Victoria does touch on some difficulties (namely the Bedchamber Crisis and Albert’s frustrations at being only a consort to his wife) it doesn’t really address these issues with enough conviction.
Even so, I enjoyed the film greatly. The final freeze frame, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert truly in their prime, makes for a perfect closing image. Although we all must be aware of what will happen next, The Young Victoria leaves us with a symbolic snapshot of our heroes, two remarkable people whom we have come to know and love.