Though it wasn’t his first film, Candian director Jean-Marc Vallée emerged as a sort of Canadian superstar with C.R.A.Z.Y., his depiction of coming of age in the 1970s. For his follow up, Vallée hasn’t strayed far from the tree and has chosen another coming of age tale, this one a tale of a young woman in 19th century Britain.
The fictionalized account of Queen Victoria’s early years, The Young Victoria quickly sets up the Princess’ childhood before settling into her teen years. The real life story of Victoria is an interesting one but the film, written by Oscar winner Julian Fellowes, is more interested in the Queen’s personal life than any of the political goings on. This is the story of a woman thrust into a seat of power and how she copes with the pressure of not simply growing up in public but also having everyone around her, including the country itself, pressuring her to make choices she was unwilling to make.
The film could easily have fallen into the trap of romantic drama but instead, Fellowes and Vallée choose to paint the portrait of a strong willed and independent thinking woman well ahead of her time. That’s not to say that the film is all seriousness; it features a great amount of humour and relationship banter. Vallée proves a master at balancing the various aspects of the story and the films moves along at a comfortable pace through Victoria’s life, allowing her actions to display her character rather than weighing the film down with unnecessary voice-overs and long drawn introspective moments. Emily Blunt plays the role of Victoria beautifully and she captures the fierceness and energy of the young Queen while Rupert Friend (as the soon to be Prince Albert) shows poise as her partner, a man who will stick by her side regardless of what happens. Other great actors, including Paul Bettany, Miranda Richardson and Jim Broadbent provide excellent supporting performances.
The Young Victoria may not be a history lesson but with its gorgeous costumes, breathtaking set design, great performances and its positive message of female empowerment, it’s one to see.
See VIFF screening schedule for show times.