The Young Victoria, a chronicle of Queen Victoria’s early days on the English throne, avoids all the historical-epic pitfalls. It’s a trim, robust film whose period-piece trappings—sumptuous production and costume design—never threaten to overwhelm the human interaction or muddy the dramatic arc.
That arc is the education of a young royal. In her first leading performance, Emily Blunt plays Victoria as brisk, witty and independent. She resists the at tempts of her German mother, the Duchess of Kent (Miranda Richardson), and her stepfather, Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong), to use her as a pawn. But her inexperience in statecraft surfaces when she allows herself to be manipulated by a more charming ally, Lord Mel bourne (Paul Bettany), whose counsel she relies on so much that it unfairly disadvantages his political adversary, the prime minister, Sir Robert Peel (Michael Maloney).