02 March 2013

Her Majesty Mrs Brown (starring Judi Dench and Billy Connolly)

I picked this DVD up at a charity shop. While we have enjoyed several historical dramas, including an excellent one involving a true story about royalty (The King's Speech) this is not really our preferred genre. However, when I noticed that the two main characters are Dame Judi Dench and Billy Connolly (better known as a stand-up comic) I thought it would be worth watching!

It sat on our shelves for some months, however, until visiting friends opted to see it. At 103 minutes this is not a long film, and we were all mesmerised.

Judi Dench, as ever, is excellent. She plays a very upright, rather controlling Queen Victoria, who is initially portrayed as still in deep mourning, three years after the death of her beloved husband Albert. The public - and parliament - are trying to persuade her to return to public duties but she refuses, insisting that she is Queen and can decide what she will and won't do.

John Brown (Billy Connolly) who was one of her husband's servants and confidants is sent for. He is not entirely happy about this, but has a long and loyal admiration for the Queen. This is not at first obvious, because he speaks his mind, and does not kowtow to his 'superiors'. Before long he starts to take the Queen out for rides, and with his sometimes brash, always honest approach begins to bring her out of her depression, something in which the rest of her staff failed dismally.

The Queen and John become very good friends despite their vast difference in status. She sees something of everyday life, and learns to relax a little in his company. Apparently historians cannot decide what exactly the relationship was, and whether there was anything more to it than friendship. This film does not in fact suggest anything more - there is not the smallest hint of impropriety, despite the title. But the amount of time te two spend together still gives rise to more gossip.

There is some lovely photography, with gorgeous scenery in Scotland when the Queen and company go to stay in Balmoral. The two main characters are excellent and entirely believable; Victoria in particular ages gracefully and perfectly, as the story progresses.

There isn't really much plot to this film, but we didn't notice that while watching. It's almost entirely character-driven, and that works extremely well. While far from gripping, it was very watchable by four of us with rather different tastes in general. There is some deep emotion, and also a few moments of light humour to lift the mood.

I'm not sure I would want to see this again, but it was certainly eye-opening in introducing a story I knew little about, and also seeing a rather different side of Billy Connolly.

(At the time of writing, the UK Amazon price is showing as almost £25 new - I would not buy any DVD at this price, and certainly not this one! But at a few pounds from a charity shop, I think it is worth having).

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

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