When it comes to period films that involve corsets and longing romantic looks, Keira Knightley is usually, er, queen. But in The Young Victoria she gets some stiff competition from Emily Blunt as a teenage version of the 19th century royal.
Blunt is already up for a Golden Globe for her performance in the film, and it's easy to see why. As an 18-year-old woman learning the ways of government and love, Victoria isn't the stuffy version of the queen that you associate with history books. She's sharp, silly, bullheaded, and vulnerable at the same time — all of which Blunt captures adeptly. But Blunt's performance isn't the only element that shines in this film, which, it should be noted, counts Martin Scorsese and Sarah Ferguson as producers. For more of my thoughts, read more.
The film opens by flashing from Victoria's coronation to a year before her reign, as she prepares to take over the throne from her uncle, King William III. She's constantly smothered by her mother (case in point: Victoria is not even allowed to walk down the stairs without an adult holding her hand). Her mother knows that Victoria is her meal ticket, so she fears that if she loosens her leash, she'll lose her fortune.
But in a bumbling, shy Prince Albert (Rupert Friend), Victoria finds a fellow imprisoned soul. As the nephew of King Leopold of Belgium, he's coached by his uncle to woo Victoria so that he may benefit Belgium as her husband. Albert meets Victoria almost out of duty, but he falls in love with her on his own.
Though the film begins with Victoria as she adapts to her role as monarch, the story of her reign takes a backseat once Albert arrives on the scene. The political drama just can't compete with their courtship, and ultimately it's what the film is about.
Friend and Blunt have a slow-burning chemistry that feels palpable — a testament to both their skills. Despite wealth and royal titles, their romance feels just as real and relatable as any in modern day, and they're undoubtedly one of my favorite onscreen couples this year. Without Friend or Blunt, Victoria could have been written off as just another snoozy piece of historical fiction, but thanks to their star turns, it's easy to get swept up.