By Sandra Kraisirideja
“The Young Victoria” satisfies the necessary requirements for a movie that deals with the history of the royal family in the 19th century. There are opulent costumes, some political intrigue, repressed emotions and the suffocating rules of social propriety. Oscar-winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes (“Gosford Park”) manages to keep “The Young Victoria” focused on the title character as she navigates the early years of her reign as queen as well as her romance with Prince Albert, who she later married.
The British ensemble cast includes Emily Blunt as Young Victoria; Rupert Friend as Prince Albert; Paul Bettany as Lord Melbourne; Miranda Richardson as Young Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent; Mark Strong as Sir John Conroy; and Jim Broadbent as King William.
Helping to set the scene and capture the time period are two-time Oscar-winning costume designer Sandy Powell (“Shakespeare in Love”) and art director Paul Inglis. Powell’s costumes are luxurious and beautifully made. She’s certain to garner another Academy Award nomination for her creations.
The movie begins with a montage sequence narrated by Blunt that shows Young Victoria growing up in isolation in Kensington Palace and dealing with the responsibility of being the only heir to the throne. As a child Young Victoria yearned for freedom and for the day when she would be able to get out from under the watchful eye of her mother, The Duchess, and her mother’s comptroller, Sir John Conroy.
If there are villains in the story, it’s these two. Richardson delivers a restrained performance as The Duchess while Strong often comes across too strongly. His characterization is a bit cartoonish and obvious. He seems to be glaring in every scene to make sure the audience remembers that he is the bad guy.
Blunt portrays Young Victoria as a strong-willed woman with a great deal of self-confidence who took on the role of Queen with a fearlessness that is remarkable given the circumstances under which she was raised. Blunt fills her performance with an ease and naturalness that feels contemporary even as she glides around the castle in petticoats and ballerina slippers.
As the sole heir to the throne, Young Victoria would become Queen upon the death of King William. There was no law at the time for a child monarch so parliament passed the Regency Act 1830 which allowed for The Duchess to act as Regent if Victoria became Queen before turning 18.
The Duchess and Conroy worked tirelessly to gain control of the throne by forcing Young Victoria to put the regency into effect but Young Victoria seemed to inherently understand that if she could refuse their requests until taking the throne that she could be rid of them once and for all. Fortunately Young Victoria turned 18 before King William’s passing so a Regency was avoided. However, Young Victoria never forgot the way her mother and Conroy treated her and effectively shut them both out of her life once she became Queen.
Despite her age and relative inexperience, Young Victoria ruled the United Kingdom for nearly 64 years and her reign marked a period of prosperity and progress for the country. Fellowes wisely ends his script a few years into the marriage of Victoria and Prince Albert. Some may think of “The Young Victoria” as a love story, but it’s really a movie about one woman and her amazing ability to defy those around her and stay true to her own sense of self.