Taking a cue from The King's Speech, A Royal Night Out fashions diverting entertainment from a footnote from royal history.
It’s VE Day, 1945, and teenage princesses Elizabeth and Margaret briefly slip the shackles of royal protocol to go out of Buckingham Palace and join the throngs of Londoners celebrating the end of the war.
Taking a cue from The King’s Speech, A Royal Night Out fashions diverting entertainment from a footnote from royal history. It’s not as polished or as witty as its predecessor, and doesn’t tug the heartstrings nearly as hard, but Julian Jarrold’s film is an amiable romp all the same.
Much of its charm lies in the performances. Sarah Gadon is a sweet-tempered, dutiful Elizabeth and Bel Powley a more broadly comic Margaret, very much the dim, pleasure-seeking flibbertigibbet. A surprisingly restrained Rupert Everett puts his stamp on King George VI, while Emily Watson is a fussily concerned Queen Elizabeth.
The story is very slight. The princesses become separated after Margaret evades their chaperones at a stuffy party at the Ritz and sets off into the night in search of fun. A series of scrapes leads her to a Soho knocking shop run by Roger Allam’s deliciously sleazy spiv, while Elizabeth ends up in the company of AWOL airman Jack (Jack Reynor), a staunch republican unaware of her true identity.
As the pair enjoy their own adventures amid the jubilant crowds, the film contrives a tentative, near romance for them but takes pains to avoid any hint of lese-majesty.
Certificate 12A. Runtime 97 mins. Director Julian Jarrold.