Film Review: The Favourite (2018)

When I took a break from blogging, I hoped to spend some time watching films and reading. Unfortunately, a bout of severe Flu has meant no reading, but I have managed to watch a few films on DVD. This is the first one I am reviewing.

(Historical characters, so spoilers do not apply)

This film has won so many awards that I won’t list them here. Suffice to say it was adored by most critics, though I have read mixed reviews from my blogging friends online. It is an historical drama, with real characters from the early 18th century in England, including Queen Anne, and the Duchess of Marlborough. Importantly, it is also a film where the three leads are all female, and played by outstanding actresses.

Set toward the end of the Queen’s life, we find her unwell as a consequence of disease. She is troubled too, as despite seventeen pregnancies before the death of her husband, not one child lived past the age of eleven. Saddened by becoming a widow, she lives in her palace surrounded by bickering courtiers and grabbing politicians, each and every one of them hoping to benefit from their association with the queen. Foremost of these is Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough. Her husband the Duke of Marlborough is the head of the Army, which is embroiled in the war of The Austrian Succession being fought in Europe.

Meanwhile, his wife controls not only the queen, but also parliament, and the royal funds. She is very much ‘The Favourite’ of the title. The film shows a long-term lesbian relationship between Sarah Churchill and the queen that was alluded to at the time, but has since been discounted by many learned historians. There is a lot of circumstantial evidence that Queen Anne did indeed love women, and slept in her bed with them. But like many things that happened hundreds of years ago, you will have to make up your own mind about how factual this is.

Along comes Abigail, a relative of Sarah Churchill; a young woman down on her luck, and seeking employment. At first she is relegated to chores in the kitchens, and it takes all of her guile to come to the attention of the queen. When she finds favour, her situation changes, much to the obvious annoyance of Sarah. The rivalry between these two women for the affection and influence of the queen is the mainstay of the story.

This film is simply breathtaking to behold. Even on my 40-inch TV it looked wonderful, and made me wish I had seen it on the biggest cinema screen available. The unusual use of extreme wide-angle and fisheye distortion lenses draws the viewer into the scene, and long tracking shots give some idea of the vast interconnnecting corridors in palaces so big, the queen could get herself lost in them. Costume and set design is nothing less than flawless, and no cost was spared recreating sumptuous period detail, including filming in locations like Hampton Court Palace and Hatfield House.

Olivia Colman rarely delivers a bad performance, and her Queen Anne is completely believable. Emma Stone as Abigail shows her cunning and contrivance well, and plays the part of a young woman prepared to go to any lengths to rise in society. But Rachel Weisz stole the film for me as the arrogant and confident Duchess, Sarah Churchill. Faced with loss of power and favour, she goes all out to recapture her influence. Every cast member is on top form, however small their role. From the cook, to the haughty soldiers there is not one that fails to convince. Nicholas Hoult shines as the politician, Harley. In a ridiculous wig, and covered in make-up, he still manages to seem ruthless and determined.

I have to make it clear that I loved this film, and didn’t want it to end. I could have watched it for another two hours without blinking, and in my opinion it deserved every award it received, and more. To my blogging friends who didn’t feel the same, I respect your opinions.

But for me, it was a cinematic delight!

68 thoughts on “Film Review: The Favourite (2018)

  1. I also enjoyed it enormously and was lucky enough to watch it on a big screen. My mother wasn’t that enamoured with it, but she prefers characters who are not morally ambiguous. In general, I’m quite the opposite. The three actresses had a field day with this film, for sure. Thanks for reminding me of this film, Pete, and I’m happy to have you blogging again.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed the film [welcome back, by the way!], and I have no doubt that it was very well made in every way, but my republican principles prevent me from taking any interest in it. πŸ™‚ Cheers, Jon.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I have not watched ‘The Crown’ for those same reasons. However, an historical film about royal excesses and misuse of power shows the royals (and aristocrats) in a bad light. So for that alone, it was worth watching. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Glad to see you posting again though sorry you’re not well. Julie was generous with her germs, was she? Hope you recover soon. I did see this in the cinema. I enjoyed it and could see why it picked up so many awards.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Pete, this film forced me to find out more about Olivia Colman, and both “Fleabag” and “Broadchurch” made me realize that she is the finest Actress working today – reinforced by “The Crown!”

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I haven’t watched any of The Crown, but love the other series you mention. She is something of a ‘National Treasure’ here, and especially where I live, as she is from Norwich, 20 miles away.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I was one of your blogging friends who had issues with it. You are in good company, my friend. Many absolutely loved it. I do remember I approved of that eye-scopic wide view lens he used. It was lush and beautiful film.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. So great to see a post from you again Pete!😊 Haven’t seen this one yet, but after such a glowing review from you, I’m definitely guaranteeing that I’m adding this one to my to watchlist and hopefully will be able to see it soon.
    Hope you are feeling better Pete, and great post!😊

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Michel. The photography is wonderful. Candlelit scenes to die for, and unusual wide-angles. It delighted me completely as an overall experience.
      Sadly, I am still quite ill, but that means I am sitting around watching films.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sorry to hear that you are not feeling well yet Pete😒 Hope you will recover soon, but I’m glad you have some movies to get through this. Please take care, and I hope you will see some more films that will be to your liking πŸ˜€

        Liked by 2 people

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