When I was invited to see 'The Young Victoria', I wasn't in the mood to sit through yet another grand British period piece. However, since I live in Los Angeles, I realized that this would be the only opportunity I would have to celebrate Victoria Day, since 'they' don't do that down here. After seeing the gorgeously shot film, mostly based upon the early life of Queen Victoria, I highly recommend it. It's neither stuffy nor dry. It's delightful and vibrant.

Our own French-Canadian director, Jean-Marc Vallee ('C.R.A.Z.Y.'), directed the film, which was written by Academy Award winning writer Julian Fellowes ('Gosford Park'). Sarah Ferguson, with her access to historical royal documents, initially pitched the Victorian film idea to Academy Award-winning producer Graham King (fitting last name) who, at the time, was working on 'The Departed'. With the encouragement of director Martin Scorsese, King decided to pursue the project about the queen.

When I was invited to see 'The Young Victoria', I wasn't in the mood to sit through yet another grand British period piece. However, since I live in Los Angeles, I realized that this would be the only opportunity I would have to celebrate Victoria Day, since 'they' don't do that down here. After seeing the gorgeously shot film, mostly based upon the early life of Queen Victoria, I highly recommend it. It's neither stuffy nor dry. It's delightful and vibrant.

Our own French-Canadian director, Jean-Marc Vallee ('C.R.A.Z.Y.'), directed the film, which was written by Academy Award winning writer Julian Fellowes ('Gosford Park'). Sarah Ferguson, with her access to historical royal documents, initially pitched the Victorian film idea to Academy Award-winning producer Graham King (fitting last name) who, at the time, was working on 'The Departed'. With the encouragement of director Martin Scorsese, King decided to pursue the project about the queen.

When the film opens, we meet the young princess (a remarkably dynamic performance by Emily Blunt, which has earned her a much deserved Best Actress Golden Globe nomination), who is just 17 years old. Victoria is a playful and intelligent teenager who loves laughing, music, dancing and books. Despite that, the life of a princess sounds romantic (what little girl doesn't, at some point, fantasize about being a princess?), however, Victoria's is a royal pain. Her father died before she was a year old. Victoria's neurotic and overbearing mother, The Duchess of Kent (played marvelously by Miranda Richardson) along with her mother's greedy, controlling and alcoholic lover Sir John Conroy (played excellently by Mark Strong) do whatever they can to suck the life out of the young princess.

Together, the conniving pair raise the teenage princess in a highly-controlled and oppressive environment known as the Kensington System, a series of rules preventing Victoria from having contact with anyone deemed to be undesirable and methods designed to make her weak and dependent. For example, Victoria must sleep in her mother's bedroom every night until she is 18 years old, and she is not allowed to walk up or down a staircase without holding someone's hand. Lonely, with no one to genuinely connect with, Victoria's King Charles Spaniel, Dash, is her best friend.

Victoria's uncle, King William (played by Jim Broadbent), is dying and Victoria is next in line for the throne. The King detests Victoria's power-hungry mother so intensely that he is determined to remain alive until Victoria is 18, so that she can become Queen without being subjected to the Regency plan, which would have been instituted had he died any earlier, making Victoria's mother Regent while Victoria was still a minor. When King William manages to stay alive until Victoria is18 and instantly becomes Queen, her mother and Conroy try to convince Victoria to share her power until age 25. She refuses. In fact, Queen Victoria's first decree is to banish her mother and Conroy to a remote palace apartment. Nervous about her monarchy, having no one to trust and feeling too young to fully comprehend all she must do as Queen, Victoria bonds with the stuffy but charming Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne (played by Paul Bettany with a lovely combination of snobbery and heart), who becomes Victoria's trusted advisor.

What truly humanizes the story, besides the very human performances and casual dialogue, is the love that develops between Victoria and her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (played beautifully with both strength and tenderness by Rupert Friend). Through letter writing and occasional visits, Victoria, who is initially distrustful of the young prince, given her caution towards any man who pursues a woman he knows will be Queen, and trust issues based upon her iron-fist upbringing, finds a person who truly understands and cares about her for her own sake. The pair marry, but with issues from her past about feeling controlled, Victoria, who has always relied upon Albert for his opinions, now simply wants her new husband to be obedient instead, something to which he doesn't take kindly. When a dangerous situation arises, Victoria realizes just how vehemently Prince Albert loves her and how much she can fully trust him.

Though the story is about the British monarchy, filmmaker Vallee presents the story in an intimate way, making what could have easily been a stiff and cold story warm and easy to relate to. The film feels surprisingly modern and fresh, despite the historical, royal setting. At times, it feels as if you could be watching any dysfunctional family and the plight of any young woman who was raised in repressive near-isolation, only in decadent costumes which, I must admit, I daydreamed about wearing. After seeing the film, however, that is the only part of Victoria's life I'd want to try on.