The challenge of any historical drama is to engage us so that we’re not passively observing a pageant of events but actively involved in the characters and their story. Screenwriter Julian Fellowes has drawn on many sources to create a witty, often gripping screenplay that tells a story many people may not know about the teenage girl who was crowned Queen of England in 1837—and how her life was often cruelly manipulated, both before and after…
Director Jean-Marc Vallée, who made the wonderful French-language Canadian film C.R.A.Z.Y., handles the many characters and their intrigues with grace and skill, so that even someone who knows little or nothing of this period, like me, can follow it all and understand most of it. (My wife, the Anglophile, had no such problems.) The settings are majestic, the costumes quite beautiful, but the icing on this cake is the cast, led by Emily Blunt as the willful young woman who knows her own mind, Rupert Friend as her cousin Albert, of Germany, who transcends the ritual of arranged marriage to become the great love of Victoria’s life, the always-wonderful Miranda Richardson as Victoria’s much-disparaged mother, the Duchess of Kent, the versatile Mark Strong as her strong-willed advisor Sir John Conroy, Paul Bettany as the young Queen’s cunning advisor Lord Melbourne, Thomas Kretschmann as Albert’s calculating uncle King Leopold of Belgium, Jim Broadbent in a vibrant cameo as King William, and Harriet Walter as his widow, Queen Adelaide.
The Young Victoria brings an interesting chapter of British history to life in fine fashion. And if the conflicts in the early part of the story are more compelling than those that follow, it’s a minor quibble for a solid piece of entertainment.