Starring: Sarah Gadon, Bel Powley, Jack Reynor
Genre: Comedy/ Drama
V.E. day 1945, Princesses Elizabeth (Gadon) and Margaret (Powley) finally persuade their father King George VI (Rupert Everett) to reluctantly let them go out into London for the night, incognito so that no one will recognise them. However, the night takes some unexpected twists and turns.
When a film features on its front cover the cast having enormous grins and has quotes on it using words like “charming”, “uplifting” and “feel-good” there isn’t really much point in even reviewing it, as you know exactly what film you are going to get, and A Royal Night Out certainly never even threatens to surprise anyone. This film knows its market and unashamedly sticks to that, as it makes sure it is a crowd-pleaser (though surely that depends on the crowd?) and diligently ticks off every narrative cliché and convention that a mainstream film of this ilk should. The only real thought provoking aspect of films such as this for me is the question as to whether they are indeed harmless, or are they actually deeply cynical? That is however a debate for another time.
Either way, you have to respect a film that knows it exactly what it is, and never tries to be anything else. As everything about its marketing suggests, A Royal Night Out is like going for a meal but ordering three courses of dessert, and is more than content to be that way. In the right context it is a perfectly enjoyable romp and there is most definitely a feeling of reassurance in its predictability. Of course it claims to be based on a true story, but this is very, very loosely the case, especially with the actual age of the two princesses. Even what in reality could be quite serious situations (even prostitution, treason and desertion) are dealt with in the lightest of tone, but that is certainly part of the charm, and it is this unashamed consistency that makes it ultimately hard to criticise A Royal Night Out.
However, there is no denying that Trevor De Silva and Kevin Hood’s make the most of what is a great concept and story for this genre of film, while the production values are also admittedly handsome. The cast too enjoy themselves throughout, these are of course not anywhere near the most challenging roles these actors will have in their careers, but they all do a good job. Sarah Gadon puts in an extremely likeable performance as the young future queen, while it is the actions of the slightly more rebellious Margaret that drive the narrative and though Bel Powley overreacts a little too much at times, she is still very likeable and quite funny.
The rest of the cast also thoroughly enjoy themselves with the standouts being Jack Laskey and Jack Gordon bringing hilarious turns as the two hapless Lieutenants charged with looking after the sisters and Roger Allam as a brothel owner (!). Rupert Everett is also excellent as King George VI and provides a genuinely emotional turn as the king, and his speech impediment is dealt with the necessary respect and poignancy, and also provides one of the film’s more emotionally satisfying moments as the narrative reaches its inevitably neat and tidy conclusion.
As the film reaches its conclusion everything is of course neatly resolved, but as I always say, there can be something reassuring in extreme predictability if a film is made well, and for those that want an unashamedly enjoyable romp that pulls no surprises, then A Royal Night Out does exactly what it should do.
A text book crowd pleaser; A Royal Night Out will never win any prizes for ambition or originality, but for those happy to embrace its undeniably charming sugar-coated predictability and light-hearted tone, it is an incredibly enjoyable romp.