UK Release Date: 15th May 2015
Runtime: 97 minutes
Director: Julian Jarrold
Writer: Trevor de Silva, Kevin Hood
Starring: Sarah Gadon, Bel Powley, Jack Reynor, Rupert Everett, Emily Watson, Roger Allam
Synopsis: On VE Day, Princess Elizabeth and her sister, Margaret, manage to convince their parents to let them celebrate incognito amongst the crowds.
It’s no secret at all that the movie industry is fascinated by the British royal family. In fact, The King’s Speech rode that train all the way to Oscar glory. The latest trip to the movies for the British royals is a homegrown, runaround dramedy that’s as light as a soufflé and just as delicate.
Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) is convinced by her altogether more boisterous sister Margaret (Bel Powley) that they should be allowed to celebrate with the public on VE Day. Their father, King George VI (Rupert Everett), and his wife (Emily Watson) eventually relent, on the condition that both girls are chaperoned. It doesn’t take long, though, for plans to fall apart, leaving Elizabeth in the company of an AWOL airman (Jack Reynor) and Margaret into the den of a Soho spiv (Roger Allam).
From the start, A Royal Night Out makes it clear that it has no interest in following the course of true history. In the true story upon which the film is based, the two sisters remained with their chaperones and were home safely by the appointed time. Here, director Julian Jarrold sends the future Queen and her sister on a wild trip through the best and worst of London as the anarchy of peace explodes around them.
| "Let them go. This might be the only chance she gets."
At the centre of it all is Sarah Gadon, best known for her work with David Cronenberg, as sensible sister Lizzie. Her performance is warm and big-hearted, which works as a stark contrast to the snarky cynicism of Jack – the airman she meets by accident. The chemistry between these two is enough to help A Royal Night Out cross the shaky ground of its dramatic scenes whilst also fizzing their way through the comedy.
The film’s MVP, though, is Bel Powley. As Margaret, she is a quick-witted firecracker with just the right amount of charming naïveté. During her scenes, the film springs into life. Her seedy journey into the dives of Soho never derails the tone, simply because Powley is so strong. It helps that she is paired with Roger Allam, whose slimy performance shows an actor having a ball.
Director Jarrold brilliantly utilises the inherent energy of the party setting, bringing a kinetic charm to proceedings. He never quite makes the more dramatic, emotional scenes fly, but the frivolity and the comedy is well-judged and effortless.
| "I thought princesses could have everything they want."
It’s clear that A Royal Night Out doesn’t work as a genuine drama. The emotional beats leave plenty to be desired and any historical context is utterly removed by the relentless amplification of events for comedic effect. It does, however, have plenty of appeal as a totally frivolous, delightfully light-hearted 90-minute slice of British fluff.
Pop or Poop?
The accents are plummy to the point of parody, but A Royal Night Out is a jolly good ride with a beautifully British vein of quips at its heart.
Sarah Gadon and Bel Powley both give solid performances in the central roles, with the former showing great chemistry with an otherwise unremarkable Jack Reynor.
It has no grasp of its dramatic moments and is more than a little ridiculous, but it’s rollicking, kinetic fun until the final frame.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.