On Her Majesty's Loyal Service
The story of the relationship between Queen Victoria and her loyal servant John Brown is a fascinating one, one which I paid little attention to till I watched "Mrs Brown". It is one of the joys of this movie that not only does it give a dramatization of their relationship but leads you to want to know more and when you look to find more it becomes even more fascinating by what was not included. Now what is worth knowing is that if you haven't watched "Mrs Brown" but remember seeing a trailer or some of the publicity from when it was released bear in mind this is not a romance but a love story, a story of love and loyalty so deep that it becomes beautiful.
Following the death of Prince Albert in 1961 Queen Victoria (Judi Dench - GoldenEye) sinks into a state of grieving and depression which 3 years later seems no nearer ending until Albert's loyal servant John Brown (Billy Connolly - The X Files: I Want to Believe) from Balmoral is called down to Windsor in the hope he may be able to achieve a change in the Queen's mood. Not one for royal protocol or those who pander to the Queen not out of loyalty but self service his refusal to play along riles many of the staff but it does lead to Queen Victoria slowly finding joy in a world of sadness. It leads to John becoming Victoria's personal servant and becoming extremely close to the point that rumours and speculation start to spread about the bond between the sovereign and her man with many disapproving of what ever maybe going on.
That synopsis barely does justice to "Mrs Brown" because whilst not a complex movie it is a movie about many little moments in a relationship and to go into detail about all of these would not only spoil the movie but take an age. But it makes it this beautiful love story from the minute John Brown is presented to the Queen in her state of depression and breaks protocol by expressing his sadness to the way Victoria begins to live and rely on John to give her the strength to carry on. And in doing so we watch this relationship blossom, John's devotion to her despite mockery from those who were unaware of their special bond to the Queen feeling betrayal when for the greater good John suggests she needs to return to England having ensconced her self in Balmoral.
The thing about "Mrs Brown" is that it is a love story but one with out romance, we may see John take Victoria horse riding on her estate but there is little physical affection and what there is is ambiguous. It leaves you with a sense that maybe Victoria was in love with John and he with her but because of their positions neither did anything about it other than remain loyal to each other. Because of this slight ambiguity it leads you to want to know more and the more you discover the more fascinating the story becomes, the elements of the true story which have been left out are stunning and whilst there is speculation over to the extent of the friendship what we see is certainly is based on fact.
Aside from watching as John and Victoria become close we also have the historical snapshot, from the politics to the illness of Victoria's son. But we also see the general perception of the friendship and how it became the source of gossip and jokes. In many ways this almost social side is as fascinating as the love story especially with those who felt the Queen was no longer doing her duty.
Whilst director John Madden and writer Jeremy Brock deserve praise for creating such a brilliant movie the bulk of the praise goes to Judi Dench and Billy Connolly. Whether they look liked the people they were playing is another matter but both Dench and Connolly get across the warmth and importance of their friendship. You feel that as Victoria she grows truly fond of John because Dench emotes that warmth and Connolly as John whilst emoting love he also gets across the loyalty and protection he feels towards Victoria. It is because Dench and Connolly play their parts so well that you are drawn into this love story and the depth of feeling.
What this all boils down to is that "Mrs Brown" is a wonderfully beautiful and touching love story between two unlikely people with both Judi Dench and Billy Connolly delivering exceptionally good performances to make the relationship feel real.