A Royal Night Out is the new film from Julian Jarrold starring Sarah Gadon, Bel Powley, Rupert Everett, Emily Watson and Ireland’s own Jack Reynor. The film follows the actions of the Royal Family on May 8th 1945 which may not be what you expect.
Princess Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) and Princess Margaret (Bel Powley) are desperate to go out and join the celebrations of V.E. Day but their mother (Emily Watson) isn’t too keen. Eventually they make a deal with their father (Rupert Everett) and promise to be back by 1am. Needless to say things don’t necessarily go to plan and the sisters get separated leading Elizabeth to recruit a celebrating Jack (Jack Reynor) to find her and return to the Palace.
I’m not going to beat around the bush here. This is a struggle to watch. There is a list as long as my arm with what is wrong with this film and I have no idea where to start. If you have read my reviews before you will notice I always try and find the positives to go with the negatives but I have never wanted to walk out of a film more. The only way I can describe it, is by going through the characters a dissect the way they were portrayed, written and directed. All three of these aspects need to be strong and at times, at least two of them were lacking.
I really feel for the actors as they are all very talented but the majority of the characters in A Royal Night Out (ARNO) really get on your nerves and can come across as unlikeable. There are characters you love to hate and then there’s ones you just cannot stand. Emily Watson portrays a side of the Queen Mother (or Queen as she is in this) that is much more emotionally detached than we’ve seen before. Be it towards her children or her husband she is extremely cold and the epitome of stiff upper lip. Now, she is very good in the role but it is very off putting. Rupert Everett is a very likeable version of the King but he has clearly been directed to ignore the now well known fact that the King had a stutter not only in speech making but in general. They did have it for his speech but then ignored it for the rest of the film. It was a really half assed attempt. Not Everett’s fault (I think) but it needs to be said.
Now we move onto the Princess themselves. Sarah Gabon fluctuated between good and nails on a chalkboard version of Elizabeth. I get that the Royal accent is an R.P. style but to the extreme but at times she took it to the extreme and beyond. It made listening to her very difficult at times. It was also difficult to watch when she and Bel Powley were on screen together. There really was no chemistry there and even though they were portraying sisters who are close, it felt very forced and downright fake. It also didn’t help that the version of Princess Margaret they decided to portray was probably the most annoying of the bunch. Bel dealt with what she was given which was to play the dumbest and most annoying character of the bunch. They wrote her as a gullible, ditzy, pain in the ass who repeated on numerous occasions “Nobody cares what I do” which yes is a common feeling for the second in line to the throne but say it once not five times!
It really pains me to say, but not even Jack Reynor could save this film. Bless him he tried is my reply when people ask me how he was in ARNO and he really did. The chemistry was better between him and Sarah than herself and Bel but even that couldn’t save a poorly written character. What also pained me was the accent. Jack the character is a cockney lad in the Air Force, whereas Jack the actor is of course from Dublin. When he had the cockney accent it was perfect but he kept losing it at times, to the point that some people didn’t realise he was supposed to be a Londoner. He’s better than that, we all know it, as are the other cast members and I have to question the choices made by the director and writers to have them play the characters this way or creating them in this way.
If I had to pick something I liked it would be the two guards chosen to escort the princesses to the Ritz. They were so funny, had great chemistry and had their own far more interesting side story. I have to say well done to Jack Laskey and Jack Gordon who seriously stole the show as the incapable Captain Pryce and Lieutenant Burridge. On a side note, were there only men called Jack cast in this film?
Basically to sum up, the story is poor, the writing is poor, the performances are all over the place, unlikeable characters, poor pacing throughout the film and the direction is appalling. If it was a short film then maybe that could have saved it but to be honest, if you watch the trailer, that’s pretty much the entire film and makes it look much better, so I’d like to take that as my point proved. A Royal Night Out? More like “should have stayed at home”.