A Royal Night Out full movie review - "A Royal Night Out" plays a game of "What If" with an actual event and spins a very entertaining yarn.
It's been quite a decade for the British Royal Family? on screen anyway. In 2006, Dame Helen Mirren played "The Queen" to Oscar-winning perfection.
Likewise Colin Firth as Queen Elizabeth II's father, King George VI, in 2010's "The King's Speech". That king and his wife (also named Elizabeth) were also portrayed in 2011's "Hyde Park on Hudson". In 2015, the whole family (including Margaret) shows up in "A Royal Night Out" (PG-13, 1:37). What's unusual about this cluster of royal characterizations is that it goes beyond the obligatory inclusion of their royal highnesses in a film depicting a historical event or time period in which the royals in question played an important part. No, this recent group of movies offers up unusually personal cinematic portraits centered on various members of the House of Windsor. Some of these films have even included light-hearted (albeit respectful) portrayals, like "A Royal Night Out", which tells an especially unusual story? that really happened, although differently than in the film.
It's May 1945 ? specifically, V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day). It's the celebration of Nazi Germany's surrender and the end of World War II in the European Theater. Great Britain has played a central role in the war from the very beginning and now seems to be the center of a worldwide celebration. Britain's two teenage princesses, Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) and Margaret (Bel Powley) want to leave Buckingham Palace and join in the celebrations ? out among their countrymen. Elizabeth argues passionately for permission to go? and also tells her father, King George VI (Rupert Everett), that she'll listen to his midnight speech proclaiming fighting in Europe over and tell him what the people really thought of it. Their mother (Emily Watson) is against the whole idea, but dear old dad gives in. Of course, the girls, first and second in line for the British throne, won't be allowed to just run wild. They'll be permitted to walk the streets incognito, but they will be escorted. This is where the story departs from what actually happened. In reality, the princesses were accompanied by their nanny, several of their friends and a military escort who never let Elizabeth or Margaret out of their sight and had them home by 1 a.m., as their father, the king, had ordered. In "A Royal Night Out", however, the night goes a little differently? In this fictionalized version of that night's events, Elizabeth and Margaret are assigned military chaperones, Captain Pryce and Lieutenant Burridge (Jack Laskey and Jack Gordon), but the princesses slip away at the first place the officers bring them (a fancy hotel with a room full of fancy old people waiting to celebrate with the young royal heirs). Margaret is the more free-spirited of the two teens and Elizabeth, the more responsible, but they're still both teenage girls and, like the prophet Cyndi Lauper has taught us, girls just wanna have fun. Margaret goes off with an Army officer who thinks she's just a young girl whom he can take advantage of. When Elizabeth sees that Margaret has disappeared from the hotel, the presumptive heir to the throne goes after her sister, but the two get further separated when they board buses going in different directions. Elizabeth meets Jack (Jack Reynor), a young RAF airman who has a bad attitude and is currently AWOL, but she gets him to help her try to find Margaret. The night sees the princesses have very different adventures throughout London, and with a fair amount of danger (and humor), before their inevitable safe reunion. This film is billed as a drama, but I would label it a fantasy-comedy-drama, and it's a very good one. Although based on an actual royal night out, this movie makes no claims to historical accuracy and isn't meant to taken as such. (I just wish the movie itself would have made that clearer.) The story, written by Trevor de Silva and Kevin Hood, and directed by Julian Jarrold takes the basis for what actually happened and just plays a game of "What If" with the premise. Both Gadon and Powley are believable and adorable as the princesses. The script mixes the fantastical, with the fun and the poignant to give us almost as good a time as the princesses seem to be having, while throwing in a glimpse of what it must be like to be so young and live a life full of restrictions and high expectations. Elizabeth sums all this up when she tells Jack how much she appreciated "the opportunity to be just? ordinary? on the most extraordinary night of my life." "A Royal Night Out" may not be the most extraordinary movie of your life, but it's far from ordinary ? and is well worth a night out, whether you're royal or not. "A-"