It’s very easy to forget that the monarchy is made up with real, living, breathing people. Extremely privileged people of course, who are often very out of touch with the real world and therefore the people they are meant to represent as well. But people nonetheless. Victoria (Emily Blunt) reminds us that even palaces can be prisons.
By the age of 11 she is made aware of her precarious and burdensome lot in love; the only living heir to King William IV’s throne. Victoria’s teenage years are dominated by her possessive mother, the Duchess of Kent (Miranda Richardson) and the Duchess’ consort, John Conroy (Mark Strong), who imposes all kinds of rules on Victoria. Despite the pressure, Victoria refuses to allow them the power to act as her regent, and she finally takes the crown at the age of 18.
In fact, this only means that even more people seek to control and influence her, including her cousin Albert (Rupert Friend), with whom it is hoped she will fall in love for political reasons. Having only just left the clutches of her mother, she isn’t quick to attach herself to someone else, but instead falls under the influnce of Prime Minister Melbourne (Paul Bettany), whom she trusts implicitly, even to the point of constitutional crisis.
Emily Blunt does a masterful job of portraying the young queen – her confidence, her missteps, her optimism, her suspicion, her inexperience and her willingness. Most 18 year olds aren’t ready for such weighty responsibilities but when your birth decrees it, there is nothing to do but step up. She is the sun around which so many orbit, on whom so many depend. A power struggle is inevitable.
The Young Victoria is romantic but lumbering, never quite hitting the right balance of tension and story. There’s a lot of wistfully reading letters aloud while sitting on various tufted couches. But if you’re looking for a Victorian drama, there are plenty of petticoats around, the scenery is terribly opulent. Blunt and Friend have a sizzling chemistry and you almost wish the movie had started rather than ended there.