The story of Queen Anne is one filled with tragedy of Greek proportions. However, the director of “The Favourite,” Yorgos Lanthimos, tells a more Shakespearian–style story about a Victorian–era love triangle.
The film stars Olivia Colman as Queen Anne alongside Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz whose characters battle for the queen’s favoritism. Although the screenplay is original, there are several truths amongst the witty, manipulative and wildly engaging plot that surrounds the queen.
It is true that Queen Anne had 17 children – none of which survived past the age of 12 during her reign as queen. It is suggested that she suffered from an autoimmune disease that essentially turned the body against itself while she was leading the charge in Queen Anne’s War. All of these are supporting plot points in “The Favourite” next to the Machiavellian chess match between both of the queen’s favourites.
In the beginning of the film, the Duchess of Marlborough (Weisz) has more power, prestige and kinship with the queen than her cousin, Abigail Marsham (Stone).
As the film progresses, we witness the dynamic between the three shift as the ties between them grow loose, playing to the emotions of a queen.
The dramatic orchestral work of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” accentuates the delicate dance between the favorites and the queen. One of the notable strengths of Lanthimos’ writing and directing is the way he writes comedy. The delivery is very dry but unexpected. Although it is common for British jabs to be more backhanded and hiding behind a veneer of politeness, Lanthimos acquaints the audience with the vernacular and mannerisms and then surprises with a direct attack.
Another strength from the film is its cinematography. Robbie Ryan and Lanthimos capture the Victorian era in a way that showcases the costumes, sets and pageantry without it feeling dated or stuffy. They manage to shoot a period in a way that it is rarely shot.
They use almost exclusively wide 10mm lenses as well as a 6mm fisheye, which is unorthodox for films, but even more so for period pieces. Lanthimos is able to capture the grandiosity that accompanies the regality of the royal family while still remaining close enough to capture the emotions of the characters.
In summary, Lanthimos has managed to write a refreshing period piece and direct it in a way that seems both old and new. The film is accompanied by strong performances from Coleman, Stone and Weisz, as well as a captivating cinematography.