Film review: A Royal Night Out

A Royal Night Out

A Royal Night Out - Credit: Archant

Sarah Gadon is a surprising revelation in this otherwise lightweight, harmless royal fantasy, says Michael Joyce.

In cinemas exactly one week too late to coast in on the 70th anniversary of V.E. Day, this larky British comic fantasy imagines the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret sneaking out of the Palace on the big night to join in the end of war revelry. Once out, the two get separated and Liz spends the whole time trying to catch up with Mags at whatever party she’s at, having commandeered a chippy, toff-hating, AWOL soldier Jack (Reynor) to guide her around London.

This inversion of Home Alone has a bit of everything: Enid Blyton spiffing adventure, fish out of water romp, odd couple romcom, last night of freedom poignancy, even a touch of ‘80s yuppie nightmare. Plus there is a little detour to take in The King’s Speech with pater charging his young princess with telling him how his speech is received by his loyal subjects. You can even stretch the point and call it an origins tale as it is implied that this night of adventure will be a formative experience for the future queen, the Batman Begins of monarchy.

There is something inherently British in the way the film is irreverent, in the most reverent way possible. It has lots of fun with the Royal’s starchy manners and how out-of-touch they are with the basic aspects of everyday life, but in a doffed cap kind of way. Its loyalty to the institution of monarchy is never in doubt. Yet, isn’t there something rather cruel about the knowing laughs raised every time Margaret reaches for another pink gin?

A Royal Night Out is one of those films that you can’t really win with as a reviewer. It’s so harmless and light that you are a grump for criticizing a film that many people will pass the time agreeably with. But simply taking it on as just-a-light-and-harmless-bit-of-fun feels a dereliction of duty, like making do with inferior goods. The film’s one indisputable merit is a splendid, and totally out of the blue, performance by Sarah Gadon as Elizabeth, a Canadian who is a regular in Cronenberg films.

Rating: 2/5 stars

For a review of Antonio Banderas in sci-fi thriller Automata, go to