The Favourite

Released: 2018
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Cast: Olivia Coleman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult
Genre: Historical Drama
Rating: 15
Review Rating: 4/5


Director Yorgos Lantimos, who last brought us The Killing of a Sacred Deer, brings us an incredibly stylish period drama that has won awards and looks destined for more. This story is set in a period that is not widely known and is broadly accurate historically.

Abigail Hill (Emma Stone) arrives at the court of Queen Anne impoverished, but determined to restore her fortunes, her family having fallen upon hard times. She seeks employment with her cousin, Sarah Churchill Lady Marlborough (Rachel Weisz), who as the trusted favourite to the Queen is the power behind the throne. Abigail then begins to advance herself in the Queen’s favour at any cost.

The Queen (Olivia Coleman) is a tragic figure, played with just the right amount of comedy. She is afflicted by gout and haunted by the deaths of her seventeen children whose memories are kept alive in the rabbits that the Queen keeps. The Queen is volatile and unpredictable and her childhood friend, Lady Marlborough, is the only person that tells her truth.

As Abigail seeks to advance her station she comes into conflict with Lady Marlborough and the two vie for the Queen’s affection in a manner that escalates throughout the story.

The three principals give excellent performances and Olivia Coleman in particular deserves the awards and accolades that are likely to be coming her way, and indeed some already have. Rachel Weisz gives a strong and dignified performance, whilst Emma Stone delivers a finely judged and immaculately accented turn.

Nicholas Hoult is also excellent as the Leader of the Opposition with a fine line between impotent rage and petty malice, but this is a film in which the men are refreshingly unimportant and none of them exert a significant influence on the story. The supporting cast are well handled to add to the overall feel of the film without any distraction from the main thrust.

The persistent and almost percussive strings of the soundtrack, along with the use of a distorted fish-eye lens in some scenes gives an unreal and almost fairy tale feel to the to the film. This is well handled and not overdone so that it gives an off-kilter feeling without ever overbalancing.

The costumes are sumptuous, the men out-dress the women and there are some truly spectacular wigs. It is fitting for this film that the men provide the window dressing in this film.

The film is well paced and the drama is compelling. If I have one quibble with this film, it is that I found myself feeling at the end that the film lacked resolution and I felt a little unsatisfied at the end; however, this is a small thing set against the rest of the film, and should not detract from the overall enjoyment.

This is a fine period drama with some excellent performances from its cast. It is well paced and atmospheric and I thoroughly recommend this film.

Review by Lawrence Gillies