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Royal treatment

Movies | Young Victoria engagingly tells the story of a marriage

Issue: "News of the Year," Jan. 2, 2010

Is marriage a hindrance, a sometimes necessary evil, or is it one part of the puzzle of achieving destiny? This question lies at the heart of a quiet but charming British period drama about the early years of England's Queen Victoria, The Young Victoria (rated PG).

We meet Victoria (Emily Blunt) as a lively teenager, bravely bearing the burden of her destiny to be queen of the most powerful nation on earth. She is equally aware of the scores of people, including her mother, who wish to curry favor and ­control her. One uncle is king of England. Another is king of Belgium. Both expect her to further their causes.

Her meddling uncle from Belgium-everyone is meddling in her world-sends a young man into this mix, his nephew, Prince Albert (Rupert Friend), with express instructions to win her heart. It's not unusual. Her social life is filled with penniless nobles who hope to marry the future queen.

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Victoria is drawn to Albert for his common sense in political matters and his passion for helping the poor. He, much to his relief, finds a lot to admire in the spunky, iron-backboned girl who waits on history's doorstep.

However, Victoria, crowned as queen at the age of 18, now dreads letting anyone control her and delays her union with Albert. At this point, the film seems like another über-feminist anti-marriage message. But not so fast. Turns out, Victoria needs Albert quite a bit more than a fish needs a bicycle. His sterling character slowly dawns on her, as does the humility that comes with failure and knowledge that one is human.

History tells the rest of the story. Victoria and Albert had nine children. She was broken-hearted when he died 20 years into their marriage, and remained in mourning for the rest of her long life.

We see all sorts of stories from Hollywood about passion, romance, marriages falling apart, betrayal, and angst. Those are interesting, but it's wonderful to see the story of a successful courtship that turned into a magnificent marriage.

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