A hilarious yet emotive period drama that breaks all the rules of its genre
Certificate 15 Creator Yorgos Lanthimos Cast Olivia Colman, rachel Weisz, Emma Stone, nicholas Hoult, Joe Alwyn Released 1 January 2019 (UK)
When it comes to the silver screen, films set in 18th century England are few and far between, and one monarch who is consistently overlooked is Queen Anne, the last of the Stuart dynasty. Yet if there is one thing The Favourite proves it is that Anne’s reign deserves to be shone in the spotlight.
The film centres around Queen Anne, played by Colman, and the two women who compete for her favour – Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, played by Weisz, and Abigail Masham, played by Stone.
Abigail arrives at court as Sarah’s cousin and a former lady, who has lost her fortune and standing thanks to her father’s reckless gambling. Sarah gives her a job in the palace kitchens, unaware that Abigail is willing to do anything to get back to the top.
It is a rarity in cinema to see a film led by three women, Queen Anne played by Colman, Sarah Churchill by Weiss, and Abigail Masham by Stone, let alone a period piece.
The triangle between Anne, Sarah and Abigail provides an interesting dynamic against a backdrop of political intrigue and war, which manages to keep you captivated for the entire film. Refreshingly, it is great to see that none of these female characters assume the typical victim or femme fatale roles, but rather they are all shown to be complicated women fighting for power and love in a man’s world – rather than just sat around gossiping over tea, they are shooting and hunting just as well as any of their male counterparts.
Speaking of the male characters, particularly Lord Harley and Lord Godolphin, it is entertaining to see them rely on Abigail and Sarah in order to gain the elusive access to the queen – and to the power – that they need.
Colman is mesmerising as Queen Anne, a character who spends the majority of the film acting like a spoilt child – largely due to the fact that Sarah has infantilised her. However, Sarah is well aware that the power she relishes is dependent on Anne and so she often had to mollify her and although the audience is only given mere glimpses, it is clear that their relationship goes beyond friendship.
One of the most poignant moments of the film occurs during a conversation between Anne and Abigail, discussing the queen’s devotion to her pet rabbits. As the audience discovers these rabbits represent the 17 children Anne has lost either through miscarriage or stillbirth.
It is evokes both heartbreak and sympathy for the queen, who spends the majority of her days being wheeled around the palace as she suffers from crippling attacks of gout.
Bawdy, dramatic, funny and emotional all rolled into one, The Favourite is certainly unconventional for a period drama.
The film is peppered throughout with swearing and moments of obscenity, driving home the point that Lanthimos clearly did not want it to fit into the stereotypical politeness that usually defines this genre of movie – and should appeal to anyone who enjoys an engaging historical drama.
Visually stunning, The
Favourite will keep you gripped right to the end.