The Young Victoria
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2009 has been a rough year for period dramas. While this year’s period pieces—like Bright Star and Amelia— have certainly been beautiful, they’ve also been bland and distant and dull. Finally, though, the year closes with a period drama that’s both beautiful and moving: director Jean-Marc Vallée’s The Young Victoria.

As a child, Victoria (Emily Blunt) never understood why she was kept away from other children—or why her mother (Miranda Richardson) set so many rules for her. But then, when she was 11 years old, she realized that she was next in line for the throne of England.

As Victoria nears the age of 18, her uncle, the king (Jim Broadbent), grows ill. But he hopes that he’ll be able to hold out long enough for his niece’s birthday—because Victoria’s mother is under the control of Sir John (Mark Strong), who dreams of ruling the country as regent in place of the young heiress.

But Sir John isn’t the only one fighting for the throne. Others seek to take control not by regency but by marriage. Still, even after Victoria begins to fall in love with Albert (Rupert Friend), nephew of the King of Belgium (Thomas Kretschmann), she keeps him at a distance, refusing to hand the country over to a power-hungry husband.

Like most of this year’s biopics, The Young Victoria focuses more on the romance than it does on the politics—or the history—but it still offers some fascinating insights into Victoria’s story. As a young woman in line for the throne, Victoria is constantly surrounded by people (from suitors to advisors to her own mother) who care only about her title—and how they can manipulate her. Even Albert—the man she eventually marries—was carefully trained to know and appreciate her specific tastes. Yet she’s a strong figure—one whom, even more than 150 years later, women will still be able to admire for her strength, her courage, and her determination.

Still, the romance between Victoria and Albert is the film’s focus—yet it’s much more than just the same old love story. It’s the story of two people who learn to love and respect one another—despite Victoria’s royal standing. Theirs isn’t a story of wild abandon and the fervent declarations of love; it’s more of a restrained and even cautious romance—but it’s a tender and touching story nonetheless. And both Albert and Victoria are characters that you’ll grow to love—Albert for his support for the woman he loves and Victoria for her elegance and youthful exuberance (not to mention Blunt’s passionate performance).

With its intriguing characters and fascinating historical accounts, The Young Victoria is a period drama that’s more than just nice to look at. Sure, the costumes are gorgeous—and the sets are striking, too—but it also tells a captivating story. And, for that reason, it’s one of the best (if not the best) period romances of the year.

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