A Royal Affair

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
A Royal Affair Movie Poster Image
Hefty historical drama has some racy, violent moments.
  • R
  • 2012
  • 138 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Political intrigue rules the day, but true love provides a respite. Also, the values of the Age of Enlightenment (freedom, rational thought, etc.) are emphasized.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Queen Caroline Mathilda was a knowledge seeker who wanted to be enlightened and took great risks to free her people. She did, however, have an affair (her husband didn't seem much interested in her).

Violence

Crowds of villagers and disgruntled soldiers storm the castle; later, two prisoners are shown walking toward the gallows. A bloody basket is presumably there to catch their heads when they're beheaded. A woman slaps a man who's disrespectful of her. A man is beaten to death; his bloodied body is discovered atop a fence-like structure.

Sex

A woman's backside is shown while she's astride a man; his head, shoulders, and chest are also visible. Men and women steal kisses from one another; scantily clad women are shown running around a house of ill repute.

Language

"Pissant," "hell" (in subtitles).

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Both royals and non-royals lose themselves in drink. A woman uses laudanum to calm herself; later, she appears to have become addicted to its soporific effects.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Royal Affair -- an engrossing, epic Danish drama based on true historical events -- is filled with the sort of intrigue and dalliances that pepper most accounts of monarchies. Women and men bed partners they're not married to; women are berated and ostracized for actions that men aren't; power corrupts. Expect some drinking and laudanum use, love scenes that show heaving cleavage and naked backsides, and minimal swearing (in subtitles).

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What's the story?

Queen Caroline (Alicia Vikander) of Denmark once believed that she was destined for "happily ever after," marrying the dashing King Christian VII (Mikkel Boe Folsgaard). But soon she discovers that he's unpredictable and even cruel, prone to fits of true madness and open philandering, with a deeply immature need to be in the limelight (so he's threatened by how quickly she charms everyone in court). Once she's able to produce an heir, Caroline distances herself from her increasingly unruly husband. But then a doctor, Johann Friedrich Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen), is hired to babysit her husband, and they form a fast friendship: Johann soothes Christian's mood swings, and Christian fascinates Johann. Few courtiers know that Johann is a steward for the Age of Enlightenment; the queen is a supporter, too. Soon, the two find themselves not only sharing their thoughts on freedom, but each other's beds, too. As Johann exerts more influence on the king -- who's all too willing to help pass reforms as long as he has time to play -- Caroline thinks happiness is finally here. But members of the court's council are none too enamored by Johann...

Is it any good?

Lush and intense, A ROYAL AFFAIR requires a commitment, what with its two-hour-plus run time -- but it's worth all the trouble. With gorgeous cinematography that's reminiscent of a great master's paintings, the film is a joy to behold. Unlike other films about royalty, it's not just a vehicle for ferrying pretty costumes and romantic dialogue across the screen. It's a heartbreaking, inspiring history brought to life, thanks in large part to its charismatic leads. (Vikander, in particular, is an enormous talent.) 

And so much of what the Enlightenment thinkers espoused is still relevant today. Why allow others to determine your fate? Why give over your freedoms? A Royal Affair educates without seeming to; it taps your heart without doing so obviously, and it makes you think. Forget the run time; it's rewarding to let it unfold.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how A Royal Affair portrays women's options during the time it takes place. Why do you think the queen stayed with the king?

  • Talk about the Age of Enlightenment and how its influence is depicted here. Are the rights and freedoms that its supporters fought for still relevant in this day and age?

  • How is this movie similar to, or different from, other Hollywood depictions of the ruling class and the monarchy?

  • How closely do you think A Royal Affair adheres to history? How many liberties with the facts do you think a movie like this can take? Why might filmmakers decide to do that?

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