Blu-Ray Review: Beautifully Designed Drama of ‘The Young Victoria’

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CHICAGO – The end of April and beginning of May has produced an onslaught of 2009 Oscar winners and nominees on Blu-ray including “Avatar,” “Crazy Heart,” “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus," "Nine," and Oscar winner for Best Costume Design, "The Young Victoria". Blu-Ray Rating: 3.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 3.0/5.0

I love costume designer Sandy Powell’s work on nearly everything she’s ever done (she won her third Oscar for “Victoria” after taking them home for “Shakespeare in Love” and “The Aviator” and had been nominated eight times overall) and her work on “The Young Victoria” is clearly a beautiful fit for Blu-ray HD. With the film also garnering nods for Best Art Direction and Best Makeup (along with, in my opinion, being a close call for Emily Blunt for Best Actress), it’s a beautiful film to look at. Beyond the lovely appearance lies a relatively disappointing film.

The Young Victoria was released on DVD and Blu-Ray on April 20th, 2010.
The Young Victoria was released on DVD and Blu-Ray on April 20th, 2010.
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Home Video

“The Young Victoria” is a historical piece with many admirable individual parts that come together to form a surprisingly forgettable whole. Too much of the piece feels like it’s going through the motions of its genre, failing to find the themes and emotional resonance to make it more relatable to modern audiences. It almost looks too good as the focus is so clearly on the costume design and detail of the era, resulting in a film that sometimes feels as musty as its settings must be today. It is far from a complete disaster, merely a forgettable chamber piece.

The Young Victoria was released on DVD and Blu-Ray on April 20th, 2010.
The Young Victoria was released on DVD and Blu-Ray on April 20th, 2010.
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Home Video

Director Jean-Marc Vallee’s film opens with an 11-year-old Victoria already stuck between the political machinations of her two royal uncles. Julian Fellowes’ (“Gosford Park”) script then flashes forward to the days just before the 18th birthday of Princess Victoria of Kent (Blunt), a young lady at an amazing crossroads in history as she is the only heir to the throne of a dying King (Jim Broadbent). With an overprotective and manipulative mother (Miranda Richardson) and her nefarious adviser (Mark Strong) pulling her one direction, Victoria’s life is truly thrown into turmoil when her uncle, Belgian King Leopold (Thomas Kretschmann), tries to wield his influence by sending handsome young Albert (Rupert Friend) to woo and wed the future Queen.

Albert may have been trained in the way to best way win Victoria’s heart but the two form an honest relationship, the love story that drives the film. Even thought they get close, Victoria refuses to marry him until she has come into her own as a Queen. After being manipulated once again by another elder named Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany), Victoria begins to realize that Albert may be the only one who truly asks nothing from her but love.

“The Young Victoria” has a lovely score and is technically admirable but it never registers below the surface level of a history lesson. The love story is the most effective element but it feels like a bit of miscasting to hire the amazingly charismatic Blunt to play a pawn in a political chess game. Blunt comes to life in the final act but she’s not quite believable as a wallflower in the first two.

“The Young Victoria” is presented in very striking 1080p from one of the studios that do HD most expertly: Sony. The audio mix in English DTS-HD Master Audio is similarly notable. The special features are interesting but horribly arranged with most of them running 5-10 minutes. Please just merge mini-featurettes into one longer documentary. Viewers wanting to learn more about the making of a film like “The Young Victoria” don’t want to be thrown back to a menu every five minutes and are willing to sit for a bit longer.

‘The Young Victoria’ is released by Sony Pictures Home Video and stars Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, Paul Bettany, Miranda Richardson, Jim Broadbent, Thomas Kretschmann, Mark Strong, Jesper Christensen, and Harriet Walter. It was written by Julian Fellowes and directed by Jean-Marc Vallee. The Blu-Ray and DVD were released on April 27th, 2010. It is rated PG. content director Brian Tallerico

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