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Mrs. Brown

Movie review by
Tracey Petherick, Common Sense Media
Mrs. Brown Movie Poster Image
Tender royal period drama about friendship and loyalty.
  • PG
  • 1997
  • 101 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The value of friendship, trust, and loyalty underpins the story. The movie also deals with bereavement and how friendship can help overcome grief.

Positive Role Models & Representations

John Brown's character combines strength and confidence with a gentle, caring nature. However, he is quick-tempered and at one point gets drunk and behaves aggressively. Queen Victoria is powerful and stubborn but her vulnerability and her dependence on John makes her more relatable.

Violence

A character is attacked by two others -- kicking and punching not fully shown, but they are left with a bloody face. In subsequent scenes the character is cut and bruised. Characters hunt for deer with shotguns, but no animal is seen shot or hurt. A gunman attempts an assassination but is apprehended.

Sex

Some nudity when two characters run down the beach naked -- filmed from behind. They are then seen swimming in the sea naked, with glimpses just below the waist showing pubic hair.

Language

A few uses of "God" and "hell." Language also includes "horses--t," "arse," and "balls."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Occasional drinking of whiskey, including drinking from a hip flask and downing a full glass. One character is seen drunk and unruly.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Mrs. Brown is a poignant historical drama based on a true story that focuses on the value of friendship, issues over morality, and the role of the monarchy. Overall the movie has a gentle mood, although there are occasional brief moments of peril -- a character is attacked and left bruised and battered, and there is a foiled assassination attempt. There is brief nudity when two characters go swimming in the sea and there is some profanity including "God," "hell," "horses--t," and "arse." Spanning the years between 1863 and 1883 the movie depicts the friendship that developed between Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) and her servant John Brown (Billy Connolly) and the subsequent uproar it caused. While there is very little adult content, younger kids may find it difficult to follow some of the dialogue, particularly that which takes place among the politicians. However, the fundamental story of an intense friendship that bridges a social divide is simple and moving. 

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What's the story?

In MRS. BROWN, Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) is in mourning for her husband Prince Albert and remains withdrawn from public life. The royal household calls upon Albert's former servant John Brown (Billy Connolly) to attend to her. Brown, a straight-talking Scot who treats the Queen with candor, encourages her to go riding in order to lift her spirits. As their friendship deepens, rumors begin to circulate about their relationship. The pair try to rise above the controversy, but the Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli (Antony Sher) sees an opportunity to transform the Queen's flagging public image.

Is it any good?

Brilliant performances from the two lead actors -- Dench and Connolly -- as well as a witty, intelligent script make this a thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking movie. The development of the relationship between Queen Victoria and John Brown is a fascinating study of two worlds colliding and of the strength of platonic (or so we are led to believe) love.

The quiet chemistry between Dench and Connolly is compelling while the historical settings and true story factor will leave you enlightened but intrigued to know more -- at the time there was speculation over a sexual relationship between the Queen and Brown, and even a secret marriage, hence the title Mrs. Brown. There is also much to inspire discussion over the role of the monarchy and associated privacy rights -- both then and now.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the relationship between Queen Victoria and John Brown in Mrs. Brown. Rumors about their relationship were printed in the media at the time. How does this compare to today? Has the media changed?

  • Queen Victoria remained in mourning for her late husband, Prince Albert, for 40 years. Discuss how grief can affect people differently.

  • Do you think kings and queens have a duty to be in the public eye? How much should the public be told about the private lives of the monarchy? Do you think the monarchy still plays an important role in society? How has it changed since Victorian times?

  • John Brown was among Queen Victoria's most loyal servants. What does loyalty mean? How important is it to be loyal? What other character strengths are displayed in their friendship?

Movie details

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