THE YOUNG VICTORIA
starring Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, Paul Bettany, Miranda Richardson
screenplay by Julian Fellowes
directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
starring Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg
written and directed by Lars von Trier
by Walter Chaw SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT. As the beginning of an emotional history for Queen Victoria, Jean-Marc Vallée's The Young Victoria makes for an interesting bookend to John Madden's Mrs. Brown. A lavish, romantic depiction of the monarch's courtship with future husband Prince Albert (Rupert Friend), it's the very definition of a quotidian costume drama, skirting over the major issues of the early years of Victoria's reign to speak in broader terms about her idealism, the problems presented to her by her youth, and the manipulation of her affections by courtly politics. It's something like the older sister to Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette: less hip, but still in love with its naivety, its evergreen youth. It says something to me that in 2009, there's a film about Queen Victoria that's less interested in the stuffiness for which the Monarch is probably most popularly known than in her liberalism, her progressive attitude towards the humanism inspired by first the Colonies, then the French Revolution, then Britain's own Reform Act, enacted just five years before her coronation. An early film churned up in the wake of the optimism engendered by an Obama presidency? It's tempting to read it as such, not simply because you do hope this administration is better than the last, but also because, as the decade of the aughts draws a curtain on nine years of increasing outer and inner dark, there's at least the faint hope for some cloudbusting in the cinema, too.