Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Mrs Brown – Judi Dench Deserved the Oscar For This

Written by Jeremy Brock
Directed by John Madden

When most people think of Queen Victoria, they usually think of the moral standards she upheld as part of her reign, which was considerably long.  What many don’t know is that her time on the throne was marked by royal scandal, the sort of which would have kept the tabloids going for years had they been around back in the day.

Mrs. Brown tells the story of the relationship between Queen Victoria (portrayed by Judi Dench) and her manservant John Brown (portrayed by Billy Connolly).  The Queen was a grieving widow and inconsolable after the death of her beloved husband, Prince Albert. 

Worried about her, John Brown was sent for from Balmoral.  He was a favorite servant of the late Prince and it was hoped that John Brown would somehow draw her out of her grief.

They got that, and much more they didn’t expect.

Brown didn’t defer to the Queen in the way others did, and this was something she seemed to enjoy.  He drew her not only out of her mourning but also out of the monarchy itself at times, bringing her out to the commoners who saw her as their monarch.

At the same time, he is sheltering her from those who wish to abolish the monarchy and the controversy surrounding her prolonged mourning.  Brown thinks he is doing what is best for her, but it is only causing more problems and threatening the monarchy itself.

Mrs. Brown was a film I’d long wanted to see but hadn’t gotten around to it for some time. I was not disappointed.  Prior to this film, I knew Billy Connolly as a comedian and a rather raunchy one at that.  I really couldn’t see him in the role but took it on a bit of faith that it would be good. He is all that and more.  Playing opposite Judi Dench the two are perfection.  At first, she is annoyed by his presence, his boldness, and his unwillingness to defer to her in the manner she has become accustomed to. As time goes on, although her stoic mannerisms are the norm, the occasional smile begins cracking her face as her amusement with John Brown’s actions grows.  Their friendship seems to genuinely grow during the film.

Dench captures the moral rigidity Queen Victoria was famous for quite well, making her seem almost a prisoner of her own standards. This is the case, especially following the death of her husband when she retreated further into herself.  Without any exaggeration or great fanfare, Dench conveys some of the desire to be someone else at times and it’s this desire that Brown caters to in her life.  At the same time, what’s happening between them isn’t an open love affair, although there was plenty of speculation.  Dench is simply perfection here and it’s a shame she lost the Oscar this year to Helen Hunt. I think Dench’s performance was far superior.

The attention to detail of the period is excellent in terms of the sets and the costuming.  It’s truly a masterpiece of a film. If you have anything of a fascination with the British monarchy, I highly recommend this film.

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