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Intelligent and Sensitive, Beautifully Acted
le 21 mai 2004
MRS. BROWN is a film that is so exquisitely acted, so sensitive in its portrayal of grief and friendship and so lacking in artifice that it's almost impossible to find words glowing enough to describe it.
MRS. BROWN centers on Queen Victoria and is based on actual events. It opens in 1864, two years after the death of Victoria's very beloved husband, Prince Albert. Unable to pull herself out of mourning, Victoria lives in almost total isolation at Windsor Castle and her family, friends and staff have become her unwilling prisoners. Silence and grief are the rule at Windsor and even though several well-meaning friends and advisors attempt to bring the queen out of the deep depression into which she's fallen, it's all to no avail. Finally, in one last, desperate effort, Victoria's wonderfully loyal and caring secretary, Henry Posonby, sends for one of Albert's old stable hands at Balmoral, John Brown. Brown is a Highlander and Victoria, you see, subscribed to the belief that "all Highlanders are good for the health." Posonby can hope she's right.
Brown certainly shakes things up when he arrives at Windsor. Unlike Victoria's other servants, Brown doesn't coddle Victoria's depression. He's too smart for that and he knows that's not the way to get the job done. Naturally, Victoria is, at first, annoyed at Brown's loud and unpolished manner and her staff is horrified. Little by little, however, Victoria responds to Brown's affection and caring and a deep and lasting friendship develops between the two as Brown pulls Victoria back to life.
Although the friendship between Brown and Victoria develops rather slowly and, in the film, at least, there's no hint of it being anything other than platonic, palace gossips can't help but dub Victoria, "Mrs. Brown."
MRS. BROWN is primarily a film of friendship, but palace politics do play a minor role. Both Edward, the Prince of Wales and Prime Minister Disraeli dislike Brown and try their best to have him sent back to Balmoral.
It is the growing friendship between Brown and Victoria, however, that really drives this film. Judi Dench is superlative in the role of Victoria as is Billy Connolly as John Brown. Even though this isn't a "romantic" film, there is definite chemistry between Dench and Connolly and their deep and sensitive friendship is totally believable and very moving.
I expected Dench to turn in a superb performance (she never gives anything less) but Connolly's exquisite performance as John Brown is an unexpected delight simply because he's far better known for over the top comedy. In MRS. BROWN, however, he plays the part of a coarse, uneducated, but deeply caring and sensitive Highlander, perfectly.
Antony Sher as Disraeli and Geoffrey Palmer as the loyal Henry Posonby certainly deserve mention as well.
While MRS. BROWN belongs to Dench and Connolly, credit has to be given to screenwriter, Jeremy Brock and director, John Madden for keeping MRS. BROWN low-key and for letting Dench and Connolly work their magic without throwing in even a hint of romantic scandal.
MRS. BROWN is a beautiful, exquisitely acted film that should appeal to anyone who loves quality and depth over formula and thrills. MRS. BROWN is one of my most prized DVDs and I couldn't recommend it more highly.