V.E. Day has only recently been explored in cinema, in the Oscar winning drama The King’s Speech, as the entire feature builds up towards the big night, and King George’s prominent and celebrated speech to the British public. But what we know somewhat less about, is what his daughters got up to on that very same evening – which is where Julian Jarrold’s enchanting picture, A Royal Night Out comes in.
V.E. Night in 1945, where the entire nation rejoices at the news that the Second World War is officially over – and Britain were victorious. People flocked to the streets to celebrate – an appealing prospect even for members of the royal family, and in particular, Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) and Margaret (Bel Powley). Under strict instructions to act sensibly and to not deviate too far away from their protection (in the form of diligent soldiers), from their cautious parents George (Rupert Everett) and Elizabeth (Emily Watson) they disobey such orders and set off for a memorable night of debauchery – which is where soldier Jack (Jack Reynor) enters into proceedings, as he befriends the Princess Elizabeth, as they then frantically attempt to find their way to safety, encountering a series of mishaps along the way.
Using up vast quantities of artistic licence, where A Royal Night Out suffers most greatly, is within the clumsy combination of fiction and reality, with Jarrold seemingly unsure what to focus his energy on. This picture should either work as an authentic account of what the Princesses’ got up to on this one evening, or enter into the realm of full-on farce, and play up to the absurdity of it all, to revel in the fictional frivolity. Alas, this film falls carelessly between the two. Where it does come up trumps, however, is within the amiable and congenial tone that remains prevalent throughout, enhanced by the 40s setting, and the crooning soundtrack. But it’s the ability to capture that sense of exuberance, as the celebratory nation and ineffable joy of the public emanates of the screen.
There’s also an effective humanising of the royals, taking the viewer behind the facade and perceiving these people are you or I, just regular, young girls who want to go out for the night and have a party. However, unlike The King’s Speech, which also seeks in achieving the same level of humanisation, A Royal Night Out feels all too contrived, forcing this sentiment upon the viewer. Thankfully, however, it doesn’t take too much away from an uplifting, undemanding piece of cinema, that is easy to indulge in and enjoy.