Saturday movie review: A Royal Night Out

When I watch films billed as "based on a true story," I figure the full film is pretty much, as noted, true. With a few dramatic or comedic liberties taken, of course. I assume it tells the complete story.

When I watch films marked as "based on actual events," though, I usually spend a fair amount of time considering which scenes might be true, which might not. Which are the actual events. Usually. Yet while enjoying A ROYAL NIGHT OUT — a movie supposedly based on actual events — I didn't. Because the rom-com drama was such fun, I simply didn't want to know in the midst of its magic what truly happened, what was screwball silliness or romantic dreaminess added for cinematic effect.

a royal night out movie

I certainly did wonder afterward, I assure you. Even did a wee bit of research before embarking on writing this review. (More on that later.) See, A ROYAL NIGHT OUT is "the untold story of Princesses Margaret and Elizabeth," based on the actual evening of V.E. Day — Victory in Europe Day, May 8, 1945. All of Europe was to gather and magnificently mark the end of World War II, and 19-year-old Princess Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) and her exuberant 15-year-old sister (Bel Powley) petitioned the King and Queen (Rupert Everett and Emily Watson) to join the common folk as they celebrated. Incognito, naturally.

Mom and Dad said yes, and off the princesses went into the night to conga dance and more. That much is unquestionably true. How true the details of their evening escapades depicted in A ROYAL NIGHT OUT? Accurate or not, the film paints it as remarkably fun — and a wee bit wild — for the typically cloistered sisters.

Gadon is luminous as young Princess Elizabeth, a stark contrast to the refined (and kind of grumpy seeming) Queen of today. I enjoyed imagining the young lady really did experience such merriment and romantic possibilities on her magical night out in public, her moment pretending to be just like every other reveler marking history. 

Handsome young actor Jack Reynor's Jack Hodges added the romance factor to the rom-com. If Princess Elizabeth actually did spend an evening with an AWOL airman such as Reynor played him, I can't imagine her ever finding true love and happiness with real-life Prince Phillip.

Bel Powley portrayed a 15-year-old starved for a good time with perfection. Spunky, daring, silly, and quite naive, Margaret's impulsiveness and determination to experience as much as possible in their few hours of freedom set the tone of the night and the film. That tone being fun, fun, fun!

A ROYAL NIGHT OUT was deftly directed by Julian Jarrod, who seemed to fully grasp the longings of young women, perfectly pulling outstanding performances from the young princesses in search of a perfectly public night of partying.

The movie is light on the history, heavy on the charm and chuckles and fun. But girls really do just wanna have fun, and that's what Elizabeth and Margaret did — for at least one night. And I did, too, watching the tale, whether it's true or not.

As far as the truth of the film goes, CNN did an interesting piece on that:


A ROYAL NIGHT OUT (rated PG-13 for "some sexual content and brief drug elements") opened in USA theaters last December and will be available in iTunes April 22, 2016 and DVD May 3, 2016. Find out more about the film on the official website. (And you can read about what really happened in this article — which I didn't read because I'd rather the movie's magic not be ruined by reality.)

Disclosure: I received a free, no-obligation screener of this film courtesy Fox Home Entertainment; all opinions are my own.