Film Review: The Favourite

Yorgos Lanthimos hits the target once more with the brilliant The Favourite. The film is Lanthimos’ most enjoyable to date. 

It is the early 18th century, and England is at war with France. Queen Anne, in an ailing state, is guided by her friend and confidant Lady Sarah. When Lady Sarah’s cousin arrives, there is an upheaval at court…

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos with a screenplay by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, The Favourite is a superb film. Set in the court of Queen Anne, the film mixes social manoeuvring with political intrigue. It plays for laughs, but there is much texture to proceedings. The Favourite still radiates the darkness of Lanthimos’ other films, but it is delivered in a subtler format. This works incredibly well.

The Favourite focuses on characters vying for the attention of the queen. The main characters in the film are very well drawn. They are multi-faceted, with each showing shades of grey. The film could have easily painted everyone as irredeemable, yet there is much more nuance than this. It is surprisingly moving at times, thanks to the script and great performances.

As a comedy, The Favourite is very, very funny. Humour is derived from multiple sources. The script is incredibly funny; there are great lines, and great delivery. There is also slapstick humour which is at times absurdist. The ballroom scene in particular is a joy. Lanthimos’ trademark dark humour is present here, but the scriptwriters inject some very dry, British humour that complements it ever so well.

Performances in the film are great all round. Olivia Coleman and Rachel Weisz are perfect in their respective roles. Coleman adds depth and heart to the character, which could have easily appeared a mere caricature in the wrong hands. Emma Stone is wonderful; sometimes it is a simple expression from her that can generate a great laugh. Nicholas Hoult is also a revelation in a supporting role.

Lanthimos and cinematographer Robbie Ryan have created quite the aesthetic in The Favourite. Some shots could just as well be oil paintings. Ryan makes the most the location, such as the sweeping halls of the palace. The soundtrack is fantastic, particularly when it is juxtaposed with some absurd imagery. Sandy Powell’s costumes are sublime.

The Favourite is a world away from other period romps. Lanthimos’ film is hilarious, consuming, and at times touching.

The Favourite is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2018.

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