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Senior Citizen Kane Club: The Favourite

Yorgos Lanthimos

It may be a period drama, but in the hands of Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) there’s nothing stuffy or staid about The Favourite. Don’t be fooled by the costumes or the castles, this is a saucy tragi-comedy about power, love and revenge. A perfect storm of court intrigue, personal tragedy and unconventional love triangle, this romp of a film has a decidedly dark edge.

"...this romp of a film has a decidedly dark edge." 

We first meet Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) in 1704, a couple of years into her reign, when the Duke of Marlborough has just won an important battle against the French during the War of Spanish Succession. This victory strengthens the hand of the Whigs against the landowning Tories, but also means Marlborough’s wife and Anne’s chief confidante, Sarah Churchill (a razor-sharp Rachel Weisz), has even more sway over the uncertain monarch in matters of public policy. Sarah is more than just a lady-in-waiting: her intimacy with the Queen is complex – both tender and deeply controlling. Entering into this volatile environment is Abigail Hill (a sparky Emma Stone), Sarah’s newly penniless cousin who quickly rises up the ranks and threatens to usurp her as the Queen’s ‘favourite’.

Colman is quite simply majestic as a monarch who is both needy and strong-willed, a woman whose life has been both cossetted and full of personal sadness. She more than matched by Weisz and Stone – watching these three actors at the top of their game is part of the sheer joy of The Favourite. Fans of Lanthimos’ uncompromising take on human foibles won’t be disappointed either: like the best Reformation comedies, this film has plenty to say about political machinations which are all too familiar today.