Where would we be without history?

I watched The Young Victoria over the weekend.  Finally.  I’ve been wanting to see it since I first heard about it.  I was not disappointed.

The Young Victoria is about Queen Victoria of England, in the years before she became queen and the first few years of her reign.  I thought Emily Blunt did a wonderful job as Victoria.  She was able to portray her youth and exuberance, as well as her growth into a good and loved monarch.

Much of the movie is devoted to Victoria’s growing romance with Prince Albert, for whom she had a life-long passion, even after he died.  Rupert Friend did an excellent job of portraying what it would be like to love a woman to whom he could not propose, a woman whom he had to obey.  (And people think they have relationship difficulties today!)

Perhaps the most interesting part of the movie was the image of what it would be like to have politicians trying to influence you and direct you.  The two main ones in this movie are Mark Strong as Sir John Conroy and Paul Bettany as Lord Melbourne.  Conroy is the trusted advisor of Victoria’s mother, and they think they can rule her together.  Victoria does not listen to them because Conroy tries to frighten her into submission.  She never forgives him for that, and therefore never listens to him.  She even holds a grudge against her mother.

Lord Melbourne is the exact opposite and, therefore, the more dangerous of the two.  And he does gain too much influence over Victoria.  He does it by telling her what she wants to hear and slowing turning her mind to his way of thinking.  He comes across as much more sinister than Conroy.  Conroy is brusque, rude, and honest.  Melbourne is insinuating, pleasant, and manipulative.

Victoria frees herself from such advisors simply through the passage of time, and because she allows herself to trust Prince Albert to share the burden of her work.  They work together for the good of England and become some of the best-loved monarchs in history.

The Young Victoria is like a breath of fresh air.  It is a movie of understated beauty.  The costumes, set, and scenery are all beautiful.  And yet, the actors are so good that they don’t let the sets dominate.  They move through them as if they really lived there, as if they were who they are pretending to be.  It’s a movie well worth watching.

When it comes to movies that are labeled as "indy" movies, one sometimes has to be careful. Yes, they often show a unique perspective or tackle an unpopular idea. Sometimes, though, they are tedious and preachy. (The Constant Gardener comes to mind.) Then there are some that are gems. Sunshine Cleaning is one of these. It’s the story of Rose Lorkowski, played by Amy Adams, who needs to raise money to send her son to a private school, so she starts a crime-scene cleaning business with her sister, Norah, played by Emily Blunt.
Both of the girls are initially clueless about what’s involved in cleaning crime scenes. They make quite a few mistakes, and do some things that are plain grotesque. Yet it brings them together. Their father gets involved, mostly as a baby-sitter for Rose’s son. Sunshine Cleaning really is about family, and how they deal with each other while trying to handle problems in their own lives.
Amy Adams does an excellent job of playing a single mother–gone is the wide-eyed naivete that she shows in Enchanted and the effervescent selfishness in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. Here she is harassed, embarrassed by her own life, courageous, and sympathetic. Emily Blunt is also excellent as Norah, the younger sister who is always screwing up. She conveys depth and vulnerability without saying much.
I would recommend Sunshine Cleaning to anyone who wants to watch a movie about family and false friends, honesty and courage, and life and death. It is a well-done, enjoyable movie. In fact, I think I’m going to buy it when I get a chance.