A Royal Night Out will steal your heart and is definitely the greatest love story never told about one perfect evening in the lives of two real-life princesses.
Rooted in history
This utterly charming fictional fairytale romance is rooted in a pivotal historic event - 8 May 1945, V-E Night when the whole of London was out in town to celebrate the official end of World War II in Europe - challenging the emancipation and sexual awakening of two young royal princesses - Elizabeth and Margaret Windsor, who slipped out of Buckingham Palace to join the communal euphoria and went dancing at the Ritz.
Directed with imaginative flair by acclaimed UK director Julian Jarrold (Becoming Jane, Brideshead Revisited), it is an affectionate 'what-if' story about the adventures Elizabeth and Margaret might have had on the joyous night that brought the whole of London together, with a crackling original screenplay by newcomer Trevor de Silva and Kevin Hood, with whom Jarrold had worked closely on Becoming Jane.
The casting is perfect, featuring three extraordinary rising stars delivering memorable performances: Canadian Sarah Gadon, who gracefully steps into the shoes of Elizabeth was last seen in Dracula Untold and Maps To The Stars, British actress Bel Powley (Margaret) is best known for children's BBC series MI High, and Irish heartthrob Jack Reynor (Jack) starred in Transformers: Age Of Extinction and will be seen in Justin Kurzel's upcoming Macbeth.
The chemistry between Gadon and Reynor sizzles and the fiery fervour of Powley is intoxicating. It's really great to embark on this adventurous journey with these characters from the confines of Buckingham Palace to the outside world, and into the chaos of London exploding with carefree abandon. It offers everything you can ask for in first-rate entertainment and much, much more. Equally brilliant, are Rupert Everett and Emily Watson as King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, revealing their more playful nature with a delightful twist of humour.
A classy romance
Boldly exploring the fiction behind the reality, and exposing the fantasy of true passion, A Royal Night Out offers refreshing escapism into the heart and soul of romance at its most fragile, where first love and sexual awakening blossom into an unforgettable love story of 'the one' that will always be, or perhaps always remain out of reach. Finding true love is priceless, and as this film clearly shows, it's definitely the jewel in the crown.
Those who are obsessed with the Royal Family will delight in this time warp into history that gives us a glimpse behind the façade and ultimately revealing that regality and true love cannot be faked. A Royal Night Out is the perfect dating movie and also ideal for those who enjoy period films like Downton Abbey. It's a classy romance that deserves to be treasured.
Behind the scenes
"The idea of the two princesses, out on the town, incognito, is very exciting," says Jarrold. "It's a true story by which everybody is intrigued. But we don't know exactly what happened. It's a little fantasy inspired by that true story. It's also a romantic comedy adventure about an odd couple, Jack is a working-class guy and Elizabeth is a princess. They are thrown together by chance and have to make their way through London on this crazy, unbelievable night. And they've both got secrets. The princess has her secret identity and Jack has a secret she doesn't know about."
"The key to this kind of filmmaking is to do it with integrity and fun," says producer Bernstein. "You create the world, allow people to believe the characters are in that world and then take those characters on a journey." The Queen is incredibly popular because she has such a strong connection between the people and herself. In the film, we play with the idea of how this might have been cemented through her experiences on this iconic night."
A fairy tale in reverse
After much research and delving into many biographies of the Queen's early life, Jarrold realised the visual and emotional resonance of the V-E celebrations had a great impact on the young Elizabeth. "The whole of Britain, including the Palace, was boarded up during the War," says Jarrold. "Everyone was on rations and the princesses had barely been out in the real world. The troops were coming back. Suddenly there was an explosion of colour and light. So A Royal Night Out is a fairy tale in reverse. The princesses go from the Palace into the magical world of the crowds."
One of the filmmakers' biggest challenges was realising such an ambitious concept with the resources of a small British independent film. As London was too expensive a city in which to film so many period-specific exteriors, the production team recreated 1940s London in the northern English city of Hull. The Royal Family granted the filmmakers permission to shoot the scenes outside Buckingham Palace on the Mall and the scenes at Trafalgar Square utilised 300 extras, all dressed up in 1940s costumes.
Amazingly, the shoot took place on the anniversary of V-E Day. "It added a little frisson to the evening," laughs Jarrold, recalling the 200 extras and the traffic roaring past in the background. "It was extraordinary to be filming there. We were looking at the palace and wondering if the queen was looking down and watching us. Of course, we'll never know."
Daniel Dercksen has been a contributor for Lifestyle since 2012. As the driving force behind the successful independent training initiative The Writing Studio and a published film and theatre journalist of 40 years, teaching workshops in creative writing, playwriting and screenwriting throughout South Africa and internationally the past 22 years. Visit www.writingstudio.co.za