The world is currently royal mad in the midst of the arrival of princess Charlotte, so what better way to celebrate a new British monarch than to go watch a quirky and VERY British movie based loosely on her great-grandmother’s life? A Royal Night Out, directed by Julian Jarrold, is fun with a dash of historical drama and romance.
The year is 1945 and it’s V.E. day. King George VI (Rupert Everett) is about to deliver his famous king’s speech. The film opens with 19-year-old princess Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) aka Lillibet and her 14-year-old sister, Margaret (Bel Powley) being told that “the life we live is not fully our own“. This profound statement sets the tone for the whole movie and Margaret begs her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth I (Emily Watson) to allow them to celebrate V.E. day with the crowds and not inside the confides of Buckingham Palace. Her parents aren’t convinced by her silly pleas and Lillibet convinces them to go, by explaining that they could find out what the people really think of the British monarchy. The two princesses are disappointed to find themselves escorted by two guards (Jack Gordon and Jack Laskey) and are only to attend a boring party. Margaret manages to give the chaperones the slip and sets off to explore London on her own. Lillibet, as the more responsible future queen, sets out to find her younger sister which leads to a night filled with dangerous adventures and general debauchery.
You can perhaps see A Royal Night Out as a hypothetical silly sequel to Tom Hooper’s 2010 movie, The King’s Speech. Although A Royal Night Out might not be an Oscar-winner quality movie like The King’s Speech, it’s still fun and somewhat historically accurate, giving it a captivating and authentic feel. The movie focusses more on princess Elizabeth’s coming of age and how she started her journey of becoming the queen, rather than being historically accurate.
Sarah Godon as princess Elizabeth is great. Not only is she amazingly beautiful and poised, she also delivers a very diverse performance. She seamlessly transitions through the movie from a reserved, naïve and spoiled member of the Royal Family to a princess who can hold her own. Godon is effective in portraying how strong and confident princess Elizabeth probably was at that age and also portrays a girl soon to become the “people’s queen“. There is a moment in the movie where Lillibet listens to her father’s speech in a pub in London and she looks around to see everyone’s reaction – this moment was very significant for me as A Royal Night Out is, in my opinion, effectively showing how a shift in the British monarchy took place during this point in history.
Another significant story line is the hinted-at romance between Lillibet and Jack (Jack Reynor). Throughout the movie audiences are left wondering are they aren’t they. This serves as a metaphor for Queen Elizabeth II’s dedication to the throne and her duties – princess Elizabeth puts her duties towards the throne above that of love as she isn’t married to Jack but rather to Prince Philip. This signifies how dedicated she was to her duties as apposed to her uncle King Edward VIII who abdicated the throne for the sake of love. A Royal Night Out is all obviously fictional but I think it’s a cool portrayal of princess Elizabeth and Godan nailed it.
Bel Powley as princess Margaret is really funny and she has some brilliant moments in the movie. Rupert Everett’s portrayal of King George VI in A Royal Night Out was more frail than that of Colin Firth’s portrayal of the stuttering king in the King’s Speech which won him an Oscar. I did however think that Everett’s performance wasn’t terrible and he certainly looked the part. Emily Watson as Queen Elizabeth I doesn’t have a huge role, but what I saw was satisfactory. The two chaperones, Jack Gordon and Jack Laskey were two of my favourite characters in the movie – they were extremely entertaining and hilarious.
Cool locations like Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, SoHo and more are featured in the movie as well as awesomely authentic British vehicles like an old-school double-decker. The crowds in A Royal Night Out feel original and the clamour and chaos seems real. The costumes look just beautiful and you feel like you have been transported to 1945 London.
It won’t be a smash hit, but A Royal Night Out is fun and quirky. It has some shaky moments that are just a little bit ridiculous, but it is ultimately funny and entertaining. Sarah Godan as the young princess Elizabeth definitely stole the show and gave a really convincing and solid performance. The costumes, locations and people are beautiful and entertaining. The movie captures a certain British way of life that makes it feel very authentic and hilarious of course.