I thoroughly enjoyed this film! Emily Blunt gave a stunning performance as Victoria, but Rupert Friend totally steals the show as Albert, in many ways a much more challenging role, I think. Albert was a complex, private person and his relationship with Victoria is all the more interesting, because while he dutifully pursued marriage with Victoria as his destined “career”, he did not expect to fall in love or to be loved in their marriage. Friend does a marvelous job of portraying a very reserved, rational man suprised by his own powerful feelings, and of showing Albert’s very dry but keen sense of humor. Many biographers/historians have suggested that Albert did not love Victoria as she did him, but I think this has much more to do with Albert’s reserved, Germanic public persona than any historical reality, as is amply demonstrated in his letters and Victoria’s journals. Friend does a marvelous job of revealing an Albert who loved Victoria deeply and was willing to make great sacrifices for her, but who also had the strength to stand up to her strong will and fiery temper, and not be pushed around. Both actors obviously did their homework on Victoria and Albert and I think very much captured the essence of their personalities. I also very much enjoyed Jim Broadbent and Harriet Walter’s marvelous, feisty performances as King William and Queen Adelaide.
One aspect of the film I found a bit jarring was the portrayal of Victoria’s relationship with King Leopold and Baron Stockmar as being rather distant and hostile. While Victoria was quite determined to live her own life and not be a pawn in their (or anyone else’s) political schemes, she actually had a very affectionate relationship with her uncle Leopold both before and after her marriage, and Stockmar was a lifelong friend and confidant of both Victoria and Albert and helped them through many of their early marital difficulties. Their manipulative attitude toward Albert and their obsessive focus on grooming him for marriage to Victoria was historically accurate, and Rupert Friend’s portrayal of the young Albert’s attitude toward their “training” is one of the funniest parts of the film.
I highly recommend Stanley Weintraub’s biographies of both Victoria and Albert for those wanting the real historical background for the film. Sarah Ferguson’s book Victoria and Albert: Life at Osborne House is also a well-researched and beautifully illustrated book about their marriage and family life.
There is a bit of minor chronological rearrangement to cram about 5 years of historical material into less than 2 hours, for which I think Julian Fellowes can be easily forgiven, and some slight embellishment of real events for dramatic effect (eg Prince Albert did attempt to shield Victoria in the assassination attempt but was not actually shot, Albert was not present at Victoria’s coronation) but I didn’t find it detracted from the story. Much of the script is actually verbatim historical record (King William’s drunken outburst at the banquet, Conroy’s attempt to force Victoria to sign an order making him Regent) and Fellowes included these bits unaltered, to his credit–they are fabulously dramatic, just as they are.
Costuming is gorgeous and well-researched, the film is a visual treat. A real must-see!