A Royal Night Out (2015)

royalnightout_2015_poster
A Royal Night Out (2015)
  • Time: 97 min
  • Genre: Drama | Romance
  • Director: Julian Jarrold
  • Cast: Sarah Gadon, Emily Watson, Rupert Everett, Bel Powley

Storyline:

On V.E. Day in 1945, as peace extends across Europe, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret are allowed out to join the celebrations. It is a night full of excitement, danger and the first flutters of romance.

One review

  • A Royal Night Out takes the anecdote that the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret joined the VE Day festivities and expands it to suppose that they were actually in and amongst the people. The elasticity with the facts allows screenwriters Kevin Hood and Trevor De Silva to set up A Royal Night Out primarily as a romantic comedy in the vein of Chasing Liberty, First Daughter and, most thematically, Roman Holiday; and secondarily as an observation of the tug of war between personal desires and professional duties.

    “We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing,” Prime Minister Winston Churchill declares as he announces the official end of the Second World War. Inside Buckingham Palace, King George VI (an affecting but rather unrecognisable Rupert Everett) nervously prepares his speech whilst Queen Elizabeth (an always excellent Emily Watson) reviews all the meet and greets to be had. The young princesses, on the other hand, have other intentions. Margaret (Bel Powley), in particular, wants to party with the people and it is up to older sister Lilibet (Sarah Gadon) to convince their reluctant parents to let them loose for the night.

    Lilibet reasons she could report firsthand what the public genuinely feel about the monarchy. The King, still adjusting to inheriting the throne after brother Edward abdicated to marry American divorcĂ©e Wallis Simpson, empathises and concedes his approval. The humourless Queen, however, not only imposes a curfew but assigns a pair of chaperones to accompany her daughters. It does not take much for the fun-loving Margaret to give both their minders and her big sister the slip, forcing the level-headed Lilibet to spend the majority of their night out tracing her little sister’s tracks from Trafalgar Square to the working-class East End to the underground clubs of bohemian Soho with the often grudging help of the decidedly anti-royalist soldier Jack (Jack Reynor).

    What a night it must have been to live through. Director Julian Jarrold and cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne do a fine job of recreating the chaos, confusion and sheer jubilation that blanketed the streets. There’s a certain lushness to the lensing that belies the production’s limited budget. Jarrold maintains the frothiness and zippy pace throughout; the lightness of his touch goes a long way in masking the inherent silliness of the paper-thin premise. His direction also assists in making Lilibet and Jack’s banter less irritating. Reynor’s raffish appeal and unforced chemistry with Gadon are also an enormous help.

    The problem with the romance is its fictitious roots. Since one knows the reality, the fiction should be so forceful as to make one long for an alternate turn of events. Whilst the sense of inevitability lends a gentle undercurrent of melancholy – especially felt as the two sit in a car staring at the palace – the overall innocuous handling lessens the impact of their romance. It certainly is no patch on Roman Holiday, where Audrey Hepburn’s wayward princess gets a chance to be a simple ordinary girl before she parts ways with dashing American reporter Gregory Peck before returning to her gilded cage. The pangs of their separation practically gnawed at one’s heart.

    Gadon does not necessarily possess Hepburn’s singular allure – who does, even after all these years? – but what she does have is a clarity of composure that threads seamlessly with Helen Mirren’s definitive portrayal of the monarch. Indeed, if one spliced this film onto Mirren’s The Queen, the transition from Gadon’s portrayal to Mirren’s is strikingly of a piece.

    Offering wonderful contrast is Powley’s ever-vibrant accounting of Margaret, who is well-aware of the freedom she has as the spare. “Nobody cares about what I do,” she nonchalantly mentions at one point. Powley imbues Margaret with a gusto that also adds another layer to Gadon’s performance. “What if the real me wants not to be here?” Lilibet wonders to Jack before they daydream of a life in Paris they will never have. Gadon delivers the ache but, in many ways, that ache would not be as resonant without Powley’s vivacity. Margaret may not always live up to her parents’ expectations, but she was never subjected to the same standards as the next in line to the throne.

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