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Princesses Margaret (left) and Elizabeth (right). Photo by Ecosse Films.
Princesses Margaret (left) and Elizabeth (right). Photo: Ecosse Films

Royal sense and sensibility

Scornfully reviewed as royal watcher sugar akin to William and Kate: The Movie, the recently released Mother’s Day drawcard A Royal Night Out is fictitious fun with subtle observations on the social phenomenon of birth order, Ashley Thompson writes.

“I’m P2, no one cares what I do!” exclaims the younger and only sibling of Queen Elizabeth II, Margaret Windsor.

Elizabeth (Canadian actress Sarah Gadon), 19, and Margaret (the brilliantly funny Bel Powley), 14, are let out into London on VE Day 1945 to celebrate Victory in Europe “incognito”.

“Does the tiara rather give the game away ma’am?” a footman dryly asks Margaret.

*Cue comedic pause,* “Yes!” she replies.

A mix of fiction and fact, Elizabeth or “Lilabet” as she is affectionately referred to, is the sensible over-achieving first born, while her younger sister Margaret “Mags” is free to indulge in the benefits of royal life without the responsibility of heirdom—leaving her free to frolic about London oblivious to the dangerous company she keeps as her older sibling pursues her.

A feminine shadow of the birth order effect present in the lives of Elizabeth’s grandchildren, William and Harry Windsor—and all other royal siblings for that matter—A Royal Night Out is the romanticised struggles of two sisters headed down very different paths.

While criticised for trivialising the significance and heavy loss felt at the Second World War’s end, the film itself makes no such aspirational claims but is positioned, like The Queen (2006), as a sympathetic look at the determined life path of a monarch relatively disconnected from the current generation.

It is hard to know if Queen Elizabeth II would approve of the sugary sweet romance and shallow scandals laid out thick in A Royal Night Out, yet one can only assume she’s not opposed to the filmmakers’ attempts to position her as relatable.

A Royal Night Out is no big triumph for cinema or the British Monarchy’s press office but will, no doubt, be lapped up lovingly by harmless sugar mongers and their faithful consumers.

A Royal Night Out is out now in cinemas across the country.

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