A Royal Night Out
Cert: 12A / 97 mins / Dir. Julian Jarrold / Trailer
Well, what a lavish adventure this is. Although I suspect the lion's share of the production budget went on one of those costly artistic licenses I keep reading about. Despite promo/cash-in documentaries bolstering the film's release, I couldn't shake the feeling that A Royal Night Out is an 'untold story' largely because it 'didn't happen'. Given the number of people you'll meet to this day who swear they were in The Blind Beggar in Whitechapel the night Ronnie Kray got an itchy trigger-finger (the pub should be the size of the Albert Hall if this is the case), surely the streets of Old London Town should be awash, and indeed aslosh, with tales of The Night The Queen Joined Us For A Knees-Up! Those stories should be as commonplace in the capital as red buses, black cabs and avoiding eye-contact. But no, nothing.
The film recounts its exquisitely embroidered tale of the night in May 1945, when Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret left Buckingham Palace to celebrate Victory in Europe with the public; the fun they had, the lessons they learned and the scrapes they got into. There's also a bit where they walk from Soho down to the Thames to catch a river-boat to Chelsea Barracks, 'because it's too far to walk', despite having already walked half of the distance in the opposite direction just to get to the river.
The good news? Well, the film is nowhere near as excruciatingly smug as the trailer had led me to believe. There is still a layer of tweeness spread thickly over it, of course, but given the characters and situations, that's fairly necessary. Despite the future-Queen looking shocked at all the right moments when confronted with the ghastly seediness of London, and despite the future-Queen's-sister apparently being a 14yr old who went out, got pissed, got her drink spiked and took a cab ride with a load of working girls, you know that the film has had a filter of Rosy Nostalgia™ added in post-production. Because when Roger Allam's sleazy pimp is one of the most likeable characters, No Bad Things Will Really Happen In London.
Due to the film's relatively short running time, the princesses' Night Out itself begins pretty much straight away, and we spend the majority of the evening with Princess Elizabeth as she sees the effects of the war from the 'ordinary' public's perspective. This works as well as it can, but the dynamic could have been increased if the audience (ie the ordinary public) had been able to spend more day-to-day time in her company at the start of the film, getting a better appreciation of what level of the war she's already been exposed to. Alas, this is deal with in a couple of perfunctory monologues, but 'show, don't tell', Trevor De Silva and Kevin Hood… show, don't tell.
Best taken with an unhealthy amount of salt, A Royal Night Out is an entertaining enough watch, but I was left with the impression that the need to make a film was greater than the need to tell this story…
[ Now if I was involved with A Royal Night Out, I'd have cast Hayley Atwell in the background of the VE celebration shots in a military uniform. That way the film would be visually (if completely unofficially) linked to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I suspect this is partly why I am not a casting director. That said, the last tie I saw Sarah Gadon on-screen, she was playing Mrs Dracula, and here she is as the Queen-to-be. Not entirely sure what kind of message that sends out. ]
Only if it's your sort of thing.
I appreciate the timing of the release, and the need to maximise exposure, media presence and indeed revenue, but this is really a Sunday night TV drama, or a DVD at a push. It'll be on telly in no time; you can wait.
Let's be safe and say no.
For better or worse, it probably does…
The film features a surprisingly likeable turn from Roger Allam, who starred in V For Vendetta along with Natalie 'Amidala' Portman..
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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