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The Favourite

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The Favourite, a genre-defying delight, has at its centre a woman's grief. That this woman is Queen Anne - in a career-defining performance from Olivia Coleman - spawns a narrative exploring the interwoven dynamics of personal and political power. It is to be celebrated that the three leads are women, giving contemporary resonance to timeless issues.

Anne's fragility, both physical and emotional, is exploited by long-serving counsel Sarah Churchill - a bold, nuanced performance from Rachel Weisz - whose influence is challenged by newcomer Abigail (Emma Stone), who switches seductively between compassion and scheming.

Anne's court is rife with individuals overtly and covertly seeking power. Endemic patriarchy is challenged by the leads whilst they themselves perpetrate abusive behaviour. The war against France is not seen to be as relevant as the rivalry and lust of the intimate kind that preoccupies the central characters.

Anne's overwhelming grief caused by 17 unborn children is revealed as Abigail meets the rabbits that roam the palace. This metaphorical loss replacement, while not historically accurate, symbolises a certain freedom. It's a reminder to a contemporary society that still fails to acknowledge sufficiently this particular bereavement.

Skilful use of the wide angle lens by cinematographer Robbie Ryan captures Anne's painful isolation and confusion, contrasting with close-ups, such as at Abigail's arranged marriage, when Anne feels, "Sometimes it's such fun to be a queen."

The 15 certificate noting 'strong sex' is puzzling, making me wonder whether lesbian sex is still regarded as uncomfortable viewing for today's audiences.

The Favourite is bawdy, beautiful, witty and deeply melancholic. Lanthimos shows us again, as in The Lobster, a bleak view of human nature. Stunning cinematography in the final scene depicts a fragile balance of power hauntingly, posing the ubiquitous question: Who is the oppressor?

Next article in issue 131

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