Starring: Sarah Gadon, Bel Powley, Jack Reynor
Director: Julian Jarrold
Running Time: 97 mins
A Royal Night Out is a British film about the events on the night of VE Day 1945, as royals Princess Elizabeth and Margaret venture out into the city of London to experience the celebrations as ordinary people.
I had a really nice time with this film. It’s undoubtedly a bit of a silly, fanciful tale, and some of its more generic romantic elements are a source of frustration, but when it’s in full swing zipping back and forth across the bustling streets of London, it’s a truly wonderful watch, complete with lovely characters, beautiful production design, and a very convincing portrayal of the time period.
But first off, it’s important to say that this film has next to no grounding in reality. While then-Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret did go out on the night of VE Day, the true history wasn’t anywhere near as frantic as the story told here. So, if you’re here for a history lesson, I’m afraid you’ll be rather disappointed.
With that said, however, I really liked what the writers did with a small little nugget of true history, turning it into something very enjoyable and engaging. It’s as creative as period dramas get, but in similar fashion to the likes of The Eagle Has Landed, there’s an endearingly pleasant and light nature to a film that doesn’t take its history too seriously, and that fits in perfectly with the party atmosphere of the story here too.
Above all, what I really loved about A Royal Night Out was its portrayal of both the city of London, as well as the celebrations on VE Day back in 1945. Again, much like its story, there are elements of those portrayals that feature clear artistic license, but there’s an incredible energy to everything about the film that makes it such an enjoyable watch, as we’re thrust right into the middle of the manic celebrations at the end of the war with a couple of people who, like us, have never experienced London at the time.
As a result, the whole movie is a very immersive experience. Whether it be the manic parties on Trafalgar Square at midnight, or the dark alleys of the city that still harbour a little bit of darkness, the film does a great job of portraying as much of the diversity of London as possible. Through wonderful costume and production design that’s made further convincing by a delightful contemporary soundtrack, the film portrays its time period with real passion and fervour, something that makes such a difference in helping you to feel fully engrossed with the story and events at hand.
Again, it may feel a little disappointing that the events shown on screen aren’t in any way real – something that would normally have me grumbling right the way through – but the fact remains that there’s so much energy, originality and creativity on display here that it doesn’t really matter. The film is there to show two women having a great night out on the first evening of true national jubilation in six years, and it gives you just the same feeling as a viewer.
If there is one issue I would have with this film, it would be that its romantic sideplot really sticks out like a sore thumb. Although just as sweet and fun as the rest of the movie, the will-they-won’t-they story that unfolds between Elizabeth and a ‘common’ airman is really rather cheesy, and even more frustrating considering it effectively edits the life story of Queen Elizabeth II, effectively pushing the limits a little too much when it comes to the abundance of artistic license taken throughout the movie.
Overall, though, I had a really lovely time with A Royal Night Out. Fun, energetic, vibrant and engaging right the way through, it’s a delightful watch, complete with a wonderful portrayal of the time period and location, pleasant characters across the board, and enough awareness of its own silliness that it’s perfectly acceptable to just run with it all the way through, which is why I’m giving it a 7.5.