Film No 5 (2015) : The Young Victoria

young victoria 2Rightly or wrongly, when I was at school it was not compulsory for me to study History beyond the 3rd year. Because I was terrified of the History teacher, Miss Littleboy, I ducked out at age 13 and opted instead for the mysteries of oxbow lake formation in Geography. As a result, my overall grasp of history is at best patchy and, at worse, virtually non-existent. ‘The Young Victoria‘ offered an opportunity to fill one of the many gaping holes in my knowledge, as it focuses on the early life of Queen Victoria. I knew next to nothing about England’s longest-reigning monarch, other than she loved her husband deeply and remained in mourning for him from the date of his death until her own, 40 years later.

Beginning with Victoria’s isolated upbringing in Kensington Palace, the film follows Victoria’s ascension to the throne at 18, her courtship and marriage to Albert, up to the birth of the first of their nine children in 1840. Emily Blunt captures Victoria’s strength of character as the young monarch takes her first tentative steps in her regal shoes, discovering friends and allies as well as flushing out her detractors.

I assume the film is historically accurate and it is simply sumptuous to watch; it won the Oscar and 4 further major awards for its costume design. What I most enjoyed though, was the portayal of the love between the young Queen and her Prince. Their match was politically expedient (Albert was Victoria’s first cousin, and nephew of Leopold, King of the Belgians) but their meetings, subsequent courtship through letters, and the early days of their marriage are shown as a mutually satisfying, loving relationship. Although young, the couple soon assume the responsibilities of monarchy, Victoria eventually allowing her consort to assist her in her role.

Today is Valentine’s Day. I wasn’t really expecting this film to be a love story – but it is, and it is beautifully done.

Film No 40 (2014) : Paddington

paddingtonWith a few hours to kill in town, teenage son and I opted to watch ‘Paddington’ whilst we waited for his sister to finish work. A friend had recommended it as a fun movie and I was a bit sceptical, but she was absolutely right, it is a fantastic family film. Funny and exciting, it has something for everyone.

No doubt you know the story of the bear who travels from Darkest Peru with an emergency sandwich under his hat, only to find himself stranded and lonely at Paddington station. He is taken in by the kindly Mr and Mrs Brown, whereupon he finds himself embroiled in many adventures. The first original Paddington Bear story was written by Michael Bond in 1958 and the author’s early creations feature in this screen adaptation; Mr Curry (Peter Capaldi), the neighbour, Mrs Bird (Julie Walters), the housekeeper and Mr Gruber (Jim Broadbent) who owns the antique shop on the Portobello Road. I am not sure whether Mr Bond also penned a wicked taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) who wants to stuff the young bear as a specimen for her collection in the Natural History Museum, but that is what happens in the film!

Two elements of the film intrigued me; firstly, I love the juxtaposition of the CGI/animatronic Paddington against the ‘real’ world. Although these computer-generated images must make acting extremely difficult for the cast, the technological  combinations have come along way since Bob Hoskins and Jessica in ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit‘. After a while, I just completely forgot that Paddington was just a furry bundle of pixels!

The other interesting effect was the colour scheme. Particularly obvious within the Brown’s house but running throughout the film, the colours used are primarily rust/mustard and blue. Paddington’s hat, the interior of the house in Windsor Gardens and Mrs Brown clothes, are gold and burgundy, Mr Brown’s things are blue – the duffle coat he gives Paddington, his motorbike, his jumpers. It’s effective in giving the film not only visual appeal but also cohesion. The same kind of muted red/yellow/green were also used as the colour scheme in ‘Stuart Little 2‘ back in 2002, but I can’t find any links between the two movies.

If you get a chance while it’s still on in the cinema, go and see this film. Take a child or two as cover, but don’t bother with the marmalade sandwich – you will be far too busy to need it!

(Paddington fans could also use the Christmas holiday break to head up to London to search for bears on The Paddington Trail – but, be quick, as they are disappearing back to Peru on 30th December 2014!)

Film No 28 (2014) : Little Voice

LVOne thing about Netflix is that it does throw up some classics, despite its somewhat limited selection of films. I had never actually seen ‘Little Voice’, although its reputation was such that I somehow knew it! The film was directed by Sam Mendes and is an adaptation of the play ‘The Rise & Fall of Little Voice’, written in 1992 by Jim Cartwright. Diana Vickers took the lead role in a West End production in 2009/10.

LV, played by Jane Horrocks, is a painfully shy…teenager? (I am not sure, because it was really difficult to pin an age on her character.) Overpowered and belittled by her mother, LV spends most of her time in her room, playing records which belonged to her late father’s collection. But this is not pop music; LV loses herself in the greats – Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Edith Piaf. When LV’s mother, falls for washed-up talent agent, Ray Say (Michael Caine) and invites him to the house, Say overhears LV singing and spots an opportunity to make himself some money. He invests in a stage set, the punters arrive and wait. Literally petrified at first, LV is unable to move, let alone sing. When she finally finds her voice, it turns out to be anything but little. There is a spark within LV, which is ignited when she gets the opportunity to perform on stage. Her performance turns out to be a catalyst as she finds her voice both literally and metaphorically – with some faith in herself restored, LV finds courage to retaliate, sticking up for herself against her bullying mother. Continue reading