When one thinks of British monarchs, the word “stuffy” likely comes to mind. But the eponymous protagonist of The Young Victoria is anything but prim and proper, despite the best efforts of those around her.
The Young Victoria follows the life of a 17-year-old Queen Victoria (played by Emily Blunt) as she takes to the throne when her uncle dies. She faces adversity both from a jealous mother and an unruly public, and the film explores her first few years in power.
Part of what works so well about The Young Victoria is the small timeframe that Jean-Marc Vallee limits the story to. It gives the film an intimate feeling, and it’s a nice counterpoint to the sweeping epics that many films about royalty become. Though the subject matter is grand, the characters feel well-developed, authentic, and timeless.
This is partly thanks to some of the key performances. Blunt plays Victoria with just the right amount of modernity, and her performance is electric. Whether Victoria is playing with her pet dog or facing the wrath of the nation, Blunt embodies a woman who is trying to break free of the rigid limits imposed upon her perfectly.
Rupert Friend (Pride & Prejudice, Cheri) also gives a highly charming (but impactful) performance as Victoria’s suitor, Prince Albert. As the film progresses and his character becomes more unsettled, Friend proves that he can pull off the dramatic scenes just as aptly as the earlier light-hearted ones. He and Blunt have undeniable chemistry, and their joint work injects some fire into this occasionally dry film.
While The Young Victoria offers breathtaking costuming, a lovely score, and a visually impressive representation of life as a British monarch, it lacks the quality of storytelling and pacing that would make it a more compelling film. Victoria faces the disapproval of many of her subjects, yet the moments involving their unrest aren’t played out for full dramatic effect. Instead, most of the film’s interest lies in her relationship with Albert.
At parts, The Young Victoria drags. Paul Bettany is wasted as the bland Lord Melbourne, who serves as Victoria’s advisor, and the politics surrounding Victoria’s reign become tedious. The film’s real strength comes when it focuses on Victoria and her frustrations, insecurities, and relationships. Friend and especially Blunt add the proper spark to make the film well worth seeking out.