In director Jean-Marc Vallee's painterly portrait of a royal as a young woman, Emily Blunt gives an Oscar worthy performance in her embodiment of Queen Victoria from the ages of late teen to early twenties.
A far cry from the dour images of a queen in mourning with which we are usually presented, it's important to note that this work is titled The Young Victoria since as producers Martin Scorsese, Graham King and Sarah Ferguson express, it's a period of the Queen's life that has never before been featured on film.
And this time around in precisely the right blend of accessibility and reverence for history in ensuring it will appeal to a wider demographic than the “period picture people,” we're able to celebrate the woman's fiercely independent spirit as well as her first encounters with power when her uncle King William perishes and she becomes Queen as well as love when she finds herself stunned that she's fallen for her cousin and intended suitor Prince Albert (Rupert Friend) in what could've been the poster couple for arranged marriage.
Although the young Belgian prince is sent to visit Victoria prepped with knowledge of her favorite operas, novels, and personal preferences memorized as though he were to be tested on them at a later date, soon when he lets his guard down, the two realize that they have much in common in feeling like pawns to be studied by others and pushed around a larger chess board.
Eager to play the game with her, Albert begins to correspond with Victoria by letter, unable once she is made queen to ever propose marriage to her unless she is the one to pose the question, which results in a loyal, sweet and drawn out courtship as Victoria must attend to the matters at hand when the young woman seeks counsel in the Prime Minister Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany).
Unsure of whom she can trust, yet knowing that once she's in charge she intends to see little of her selfish mother (Miranda Richardson) and the tyrannical beast in charge of her affairs – Conroy (Mark Strong) – Victoria struggles with everything from party politics to an assassination attempt by the time she's reached her early twenties.
Although it has a more contemporary and breathable feel than some of its period predecessors even including the excellent “herstory” film The Duchess, Victoria is steeped in history such as the highly detailed journals of Her Majesty, adapted by Oscar winning Gosford Park screenwriter Julian Fellowes in a way that ensures you're more engaged than you were in, say, Sofia Coppola's experimental Marie Antoinette.
Overall, the film remains one of last year's underrated and overlooked treasures along with fellow Sony period releases featuring a strong female role including Bright Star and An Education -- the latter of which received far more Oscar attention but little audience recognition.
Featuring one of Emily Blunt's strongest turns to date, The Young Victoria comes highly recommended in a beautifully transferred DVD featuring behind-the-scenes production extras, deleted and extended footage along with a look at its Oscar winning costumes and art direction.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.