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The Young Victoria

Emily Blunt in The Young Victoria

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

MARTIN Scorsese, Julian Fellowes and Sarah Ferguson, The Duchess of York, provided the formidable, if unlikely, creative drive behind bringing The Young Victoria to the screen.

But while their efforts are rewarded with a typically sumptuous historical drama that marks the first time a film has really examined the younger years of Britain’s longest ruling monarch (to date), viewers may also be left to ponder what could have happened if Scorsese had also taken on directorial duties.

Instead, the Goodfellas legend serves as co-producer with Ferguson, who conceived the idea, while Fellowes (of Gosford Park fame) provides the screenplay.

It’s left to French director Jean-Marc Vallée to put his stamp on the royal proceedings and while his film looks beautiful and boasts typically fine performances, it lacks a harder edge that would really have done justice to Victoria’s challenging early reign.

That’s not to say his film isn’t engaging, as it competently follows Victoria (Emily Blunt) as she first resists attempts by her mother (Miranda Richardson) and Lord Conroy (Mark Strong) to delay her path to the throne, and then takes her first tentative steps into politics while juggling the dual attentions of sly British Prime Minister Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany) and doting German Prince Albert (Rupert Friend).

It also successfully goes to prove there was far more to Victoria than the elderly widow in black who spent her latter years in mourning (for which we have Dame Judi Dench to thank for that).

It’s just that his decision to opt for Jane Austen-style romanticism over harder-edged politics and intrigue prevents the film from leaving a more lasting impression, while also taking dramatic licence with one key moment in the relationship with Victoria and Albert.

On the plus side, The Young Victoria does boast an excellent central performance from Emily Blunt (of The Devil Wears Prada), as well as strong support from Friend, Bettany, Strong and Richardson.

Blunt, especially, proves herself to be a capable leading lady and expertly balances youthful naivety with an accelerated need to display maturity beyond her years. She combines feistiness with vulnerability convincingly and is an alluring, captivating presence to be around.

Her central relationship with Friend’s sympathetic Albert is also well developed and the two share some great chemistry with each other.

The look of the film will also tick all the right boxes with fans of period drama, with costumes and ceremony placed very much to the fore, while Vallée makes typically fine use of his excellent English locations.

But while The Young Victoria certainly does satisfy on a superficial, easy-to-watch level, and remains a strong entry into its genre, a little more risk-taking in its approach might have given us a bolder, more probing – and even different – view of Victoria’s intriguing history.

Certificate: PG
Running time: 104mins
UK DVD Release: July 13, 2009