People tend to view Queen Victoria as a stately and prim old woman. But, at least at one point in her life, she resembled anything but this commonly held stereotype.

“The Young Victoria”

At the Michigan
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“The Young Victoria” focuses primarily on the beginnings of Victoria’s life. Emily Blunt (“Sunshine Cleaning”) performs capably in her role as the young queen, but doesn’t quite achieve the commanding presence of a monarch. The Queen does not reach maturity in “Young Victoria;” she still displays some naïveté and self-doubt. It would have made Blunt’s character more complete had she developed Victoria’s regal side.

“Young Victoria” explores the romantic relationship between Victoria and her mousy husband Prince Albert (Rupert Friend, “The Libertine”). Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany, “The Da Vinci Code”), the queen’s ambitious advisor and Albert’s romantic rival, is far more entertaining than the bland Albert. While the relationship between Victoria and Albert is historically intriguing (she was the first queen to marry for love rather than politics), the surrounding story collapses into scenes depicting the pair romping around as newlyweds. Actually, the political relationship between Victoria, Lord Melbourne and the English people seems to have the greatest depth in “Young Victoria.”

While the love story between Victoria and Albert is a sweet one, there are many more aspects of Victoria’s younger days worth exploring. Director Jean-Marc Vallee (“C.R.A.Z.Y”) tries to incorporate some of these ideas. For example, Victoria was so closely guarded that she was required to hold someone’s hand as she walked down stairs, and she had to protect her claim to the throne for the larger part of her life.

In these respects, “The Young Victoria” is not a dry historical narrative. Vallee puts character and personality behind these figures. At times, it’s easy to get caught up in the story and forget it’s actually nonfiction. The movie is well focused, integrating both politics and romance.

But there’s a lack of social context. The audience has no way of knowing the social turmoil Britain faced in the wake of the Industrial Revolution and Queen Victoria’s role in these events. The story isolates itself within the walls of the Queen’s palace — it’s not made clear why her story matters today.

But just because “The Young Victoria” doesn’t explain the significance of the young Queen’s life doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable. Vallee makes an effort to preserve historical accuracy, and it’s obvious a lot of work went into small details like Victoria’s bonnets and the banquet chairs. But despite the heavy attention paid to historical detail, “The Young Victoria” is nothing more than a classic romantic comedy about a prince and a princess.

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