On a fateful day in May, 1945, the world was celebrating. Germany had surrendered, WWII was over and Victory in Europe (VE) Day saw millions of revelers taking to the streets to drink and dance the night away. The streets of London turned into one giant party, with crowds stretching from Trafalgar Square to the gates of Buckingham Palace. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth waved to the masses from the palace balcony to cheers and applause, while their daughters, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, were looking out at and longing, just for one night, to join in on the celebrations. It took some convincing, but finally the King and Queen allowed their daughters to venture out of the palace, incognito and chaperoned, to enjoy one royal night out.
Directed by Julian Jarrold (Brideshead Revisited, Becoming Jane), A Royal Night Out is inspired by these true events, however the historical accuracy ends there. While the real Elizabeth never actually revealed what happened on that night in May, this comedy takes creative liberty to the extreme in its depiction of the Princesses’ first foray into the real world, which sees the pair giving their chaperons the slip, before quickly losing each other in the crowds and going on their own adventures. While a drunken Princess Margaret (Bel Powley) ventures down London’s seedy alleys and is mistaken for a hooker, her ever more responsible sister Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) spends the night chasing after her, with the help of the handsome but cynical Jack (Jack Reynor).
This film is well-directed by Jarrold, who is no stranger to period pieces, and is visually beautiful with suave, 40’s-style costuming and sets. The screenplay offers a few classy giggles or royal chortles here and there, and Bec Powley is particularly amusing to watch on screen. All in all, A Royal Night Out is an enjoyable film, but it’s just not a special film. While the VE Day celebrations are an amazing event in human history, the story of two spoiled princesses who just want to be normal for a night lacks a real-world substance that makes it meaningful or relatable to the average Joe (working on the assumption that the majority of cinema goers don’t live in a palace). There just isn’t enough meat to sink your teeth into in terms of plot, even though the potential was there, what with the devastated post-WWII landscape. But instead the film relies heavily on cliches and focuses more on the suspense of the blossoming young romance between a lower class man and a young Queen-to-be.
While it will make you laugh and it will keep you entertained, A Royal Night Out is essentially how it sounds; twee, polished and lacking a certain grit that it needs to add any weight. But if you’re looking for some lighthearted fluff to enjoy while you’re sipping on some English breakfast and buffing your tiara, then this is the film for you.
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