May 8th of this year marked the 70th anniversary of VE Day. Of course, everyone still alive today can recall exactly where, when and with whom they spent that night. Some may mark it as remarkable, overdue, overwhelming and even life-changing - but for two people in particular, it was all the above and so much more.
Only a handful knew at the time, but now thanks to the film 'A Royal Night Out' and a 1985 recording recently released, we now know that a 19-year-old Princess Elizabeth and 15-year-old Princess Margaret spent the night on the streets of London celebrating with their people. As for the details of that night, you can believe the rumours, use your imagination, trust that everything went smoothly and was all above board, or let 'Kinky Boots' director Julian Jarrold tell you what he believes.
On May 8th 1945 while all of Europe was celebrating, young Princesses Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) and Margaret (Bel Pawley) seize the opportunity to leave their "ghastly mausoleum" of a home and spend a night on the town, celebrating, dancing and finally visiting all the clubs and dance halls they’d only ever read about in magazines. The reluctant Elizabeth and over-enthusiastic Margaret soon give their two military chaperones the slip and are separated. Margaret is all too happy to go whereever the night takes her, whereas the protective and responsible future Queen does everything in her power to track down her sister with the aid of an AWOL soldier Jack (Jack Reynor) to help her navigate London, including its seedy side and the perils of not having carrying money, all while "incognito".
You can believe the rumours, use your imagination...
Gadon is gorgeous as always, with just the right amount of airs about her to believe she is a young lady with the weight of the nation just seven short years away from falling on her shoulders. Pawley is cheeky, raucous and deliciously fun portraying the kind of sister you’d both love and hate to have, in equal measure. And the romance between Jack and Elizabeth is charming, raw, vulnerable and restrained enough to be believable while also respectable to the current and real-life monarchy and characters they portray - clearly this film was made by an Englishman.
While 'A Royal Night Out' isn’t as mad-cap or knee-slapping as you’d hope, it is modest and careful with the facts versus the fiction, giving us a film full of cute romanticism that's tasty enough to be gobbled up and savoured by royal enthusiasts and fans alike.
Some may argue that a half-truth is a whole lie but I say, why can’t a half-truth be a whole lot of fun?