Mrs. Brown [1997]

A romantic drama in the Masterpiece Theater vein, this John Madden film looks at the relationship between Queen Victoria and John Brown, a commoner who, though a servant, becomes her closest friend and confidant. As such, he proves the catalyst to bring her back into public life and out of her private mourning for the late Prince Albert. But the closeness of their friendship sets tongues wagging about the impropriety of what appears to be an affair between queen and commoner (an issue the film never directly addresses). The film's charm lies in the flinty give-and-take between the wonderfully starchy Judi Dench as Victoria and the robust Scottish comedian Billy Connolly, here playing it straight as a strong-willed Scotsman who comes to enjoy the power he wields by virtue of having the queen's ear. Antony Sher is also striking as Prime Minister Disraeli, in a performance that all but shimmers with unspoken malice. --Marshall Fine

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