Film review: The Favourite is a raucously funny costume drama

Olivia Colman in The Favourite Picture: ATSUSHI NISHIJIMA/FOX SEARCHLIGHT

Olivia Colman in The Favourite Picture: ATSUSHI NISHIJIMA/FOX SEARCHLIGHT - Credit: Archant

From Yorgos Lanthimos, the Greek director behind The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, comes this period piece about Queen Anne’s complicated relationship with two of her closest aides.

Olivia Coleman takes on the lead role as a depressed monarch suffering from spells of gout, who has passed control of her kingdom over to Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) her trusted aide and lover.

When Churchill’s cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives at the palace in search of work, she quickly sets about winning the affections of the Queen and a bitter power struggle ensues.

The film is played primarily as an absurdist comedy but the eccentric Lanthimos brings a unique nightmarish tinge to proceedings. This is helped in part by a classical soundtrack mixed with and an unsettling ticking theme.

The male characters, which include Nicolas Hoult’s Robert Harley, are all dressed up in preposterously huge wigs and make up, yet play only peripheral roles in the drama as their female counterparts vie for power.

The three leads are all perfectly cast in their very different roles and may well feature when awards season comes around.

Rachel Weisz is the stern and strong-willed aide with the Kingdom’s best interests at heart whilst Emma Stone is outwardly softer, but with an underlying villainous streak necessary to manipulate those around her.

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It is Olivia Coleman however, who will rightly receive most of the plaudits. Her Queen Anne is vulnerable and childish and capable of flying off the handle at a moments notice, yet there is quite clearly with an underlying sadness penetrating deep within the character which Coleman portrays expertly.

Queen Anne reportedly lost 17 children through her lifetime, which is referenced briefly.

The Favourite is like no other period piece you’ve seen and as a result will not win over those looking for more traditional storytelling.

However, fans of challenging cinema will find it well worth their time.

The Favourite is a righteously funny and raucous costume drama, with a macabre twist, and is a unique piece of film making from one of the most interesting directors around.

The Favourite is showing at the Regal Theatre in Stowmarket until January 31.