There are three outstanding leading ladies in this film and they deserve equal credit for the way that they portray their very different characters. Olivia Coleman plays the frail and slightly crazy Queen Anne who is, initially, controlled by Lady Sarah Marlborough played by Rachel Weisz. As the Queen’s word is law in the two-party parliament, it is really Lady Sarah who is running the country.
The three co-stars. Photo credit: 20th Century Fox
The balance of power soon starts to change when Sarah’s cousin, Abigail, brilliantly played by American actress, Emma Stone, whose English accent is convincingly authentic, makes a very muddy entrance onto the scene. The audience feels pity for Abigail, who has been left destitute after her uncle has burned down the family home, killing himself in the process. She begs her cousin for a job in the Queen’s household and starts as a lowly maid, suffering beatings and humiliations at the hands of the other servants. However, she is devious and manipulative and, before too long, she is in a battle with Sarah to become the Queen’s favourite.
All of the characters in the film are wonderfully developed. I put this down to some excellent writing by Deborah Davies and Tony McNamara and the first-rate directing by Yorgos Lanthimos. My understanding is that the director trusted his actors to bring the characters to life, giving them the thumbs up most of the time with the occasional intervention when he spotted room for improvement. It worked well.
There is tragedy and comedy, cruelty and debauchery and some graphic cinematography. The scenery and settings are amazing.
The story, and the interactions between the characters could be transposed from the early 18th century setting into any other era in history. Indeed, I found many parallels to the craziness of the 21st century world in which I live.
There were some irritating periods in the soundtrack, particularly when a monotonous ‘deep boing’ beat pervaded for several minutes. That was distracting.
I loved the rabbits, the Queen’s children, which were very significant in many ways. You will have to watch the film to understand what I mean.
The ending was a bit quirky. It was mostly very meaningful, but there was one aspect of it that I think could have been dropped. Again, I don’t want to say more for fear that my opinion might act as a huge spoiler.
I am probably almost unique in picking the rolling of the credits as the most heart-wrenching, jaw-dropping moment of the whole film. My reason is that the song that was played as they rolled was Skyline Pigeon by Elton John. This song is off one of his early albums, Empty Sky. I still have my copy, which I bought when I was a teenager. The song means a lot to me. I was walking out of the cinema as the credits rolled. It stopped me in my tracks, and I stood, listening, until the final notes died away. I played it again when I got home. It was absolutely the right song to close this film. Elton plays the clavichord rather than his usual piano. Great lyrics too and bang on period.
I loved this film and I recommend it very highly.
Next week, I shall be going back to the cinema to watch Mary Queen of Scots. I hope that it compares well with The Favourite. I’ll let you know.