Still mourning the death of Prince Albert after three years, Queen Victoria brings Highlander John Brown to Windsor in 1864 to supervise her horseback riding–and ultimately her life in some of its most significant political and personal aspects. Judi Dench is a Victoria whose depth can be inferred from an impressively crafted surface; she expresses a yearning for companionship through nuances of the eyes and mouth that a lesser performer couldn’t manage, even given the subtle scripting by Jeremy Brock of this quiet yet inwardly turbulent character. The more overtly dramatic Brown (Billy Connolly), whose motive for attaching himself to Victoria is a complicated fusion of ambition and compassion, provides a fascinating contrast as director John Madden calmly dissects a public figure whose personal life is effectively nonexistent. Victoria’s politically problematic retreat from public life is presented as a process of grieving not just for her dead husband but for her own soul, in a story that doesn’t so much chronicle a scandal as explore a lonely, isolated woman’s need for camaraderie–a need that stubbornly persists even though the logistics of her life distort the forms friendship or love can take. Biograph, Esquire. –Lisa Alspector
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.