Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Films

By Skip Sheffield

There is an abundance of new films opening this Christmas Day. I’ve had the opportunity to see four of them.
The most impressive of the lot is “Young Victoria,” starring Emily Blunt as England’s monarch so beloved she has the entire Victorian Age named after her.
The popular conception of Queen Victoria, especially in the USA, is of prudishness and decorum.
The reality of it is that Victoria was a flesh-and-blood woman who very much loved her Prince Albert. She bore him nine children and was devastated by his death in 1861- but this story is not about that sad period of mourning.
Screenwriter Julian Fellows has explored the sensuous, romantic side of a vibrant, intelligent young queen, and Emily Blunt beautifully embodies her.
The story begins in 1837 when Victoria was just 17. Her genial uncle, King William (Jim Broadbent), is dying, and her status-seeking mother, the Duchess of Kent (Miranda Richardson) and her devious advisor, Conroy, (Mark Strong) are scheming to wrest power from her on the pretext that Victoria is just too young to be monarch.
Victoria’s handsome cousin, Albert (Rupert Friend), is the nephew of King Leopold of Belgium. For political expediency the Duchess has invited Albert to the place to meet and possibly woo Victoria.
Despite initial doubts, the headstrong and somewhat rebellious Victoria finds a kindred spirit in Albert, who is also tired of being dominated by his relatives. Before he returns to Belgium, Albert asks if he might write Victoria. She grants him that right, and so by royal mail romance begins to blossom. Victoria was crowned Queen in 1838 at age 18, and it was she who proposed to Albert and married him Feb. 10, 1840.
It can’t be easy living in the fishbowl that is royal life, but somehow Victoria grew and flourished despite challenges and political battles around them. We see them when her chief advisor, Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany) is forced from power and an unfriendly Tory government takes over.
Above all “Young Victoria” is a romance, and a sumptuous, beautiful one at that. I will never again think of Queen Victoria just as an elderly dowager thanks to this fascinating depiction of Britain’s longest-ruling monarch (1838-1901).

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