The Young Victoria, Jean-Marc Vallée, 100 mins, PG
American Teen, Nanette Burstein, 95 mins, 15
Flame & Citron, Ole Christian Madsen, 130 mins, 15

We are not amused – nor entertained

When a film opens with a minute of captions filling in the historical context, followed by several more minutes of montage and voice-over filling in yet more historical context, that usually means it's a blockbuster about warring vampires and werewolves.

But The Young Victoria is disappointingly short of blood-drinking fiends, so in this case all the voice-overs and captions are even more off-putting. They're a glaring sign that the film-makers don't think we'll be able to understand the story of Queen Victoria's salad days unless they spell everything out in block capitals. Even when the dialogue is allowed to do some of the work, instead of the captions, it isn't much more subtle. Halfway through, Britain is shaken by a constitutional crisis, but you don't see it happening; what you see is a newspaper seller waving the evening edition and shouting, "Constitutional crisis!" We are amused, as Queen Vic might have said, but I don't think we're supposed to be.

At least The Young Victoria has, like all British period dramas, a procession of prestigious actors in expensive frocks. After Victoria's childhood is dispensed with in that opening montage, Emily Blunt takes over as the 17-year-old princess. Her uncle, William IV (a batty Jim Broadbent), is expected to peg out at any moment, and so the vultures of British politics and the European monarchy circle overhead, ready to swoop down and take control of the inexperienced heiress. Chief among them are Victoria's mother, the Duchess of Kent (Miranda Richardson), and her mother's Svengali, John Conroy, played by Mark Strong as such a ranting villain that he might count as a vampire or a werewolf after all. When Victoria is crowned, aged 18, she relies for advice on the oleaginous prime minister, Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany), but she isn't comfortable in her new role until she marries the love of her life, Prince Albert (Rupert Friend).

I'd assume that it's the editing that's largely responsible for the dumbed-down storytelling, rather than Julian Fellowes's screenplay, and it would be fascinating to know who was behind it: two of The Young Victoria's producers are Martin Scorsese and Sarah Ferguson. But Fellowes has to shoulder some of the blame for the clunking dialogue. "Do you ever feel like you're a chess piece in a game being played against your will?" Victoria asks Albert, over a game of chess. He should do, because three scenes earlier someone informed him: "You are the next piece in the game."

American Teen is a fly-on-the-wall documentary which spans a year at a Midwest high school, as experienced by four pupils who are due to graduate. They conform to those beloved teen-movie archetypes: the Queen Bee who rules bitchily over her classmates; the Jock who's the star of the basketball team; the Nerd who's seeking a girlfriend who shares his love of video games; and the Rebel who sees herself as an outsider because she's interested in art and cinema.

It's a shock to see how uniformly poisonous these teenagers' parents are as they pressure and discourage their stressed-out children, but other-wise the only surprising thing about American Teen is how familiar it all is. The subjects behave exactly as they would in a John Hughes film, and the cliques, proms and climactic sports finals you might have seen in Mean Girls and American Pie are present and correct. The director, Nanette Burstein, even shuffles incidents around in the editing suite so that they fit the template of a clichéd teen movie: unless the Nerd has severe acne which vanishes and reappears several times a month, then the footage is being flagrantly manipulated. Not only is it morally iffy of Burstein to do so much tampering with her material, it also makes you question the point of the exercise: if she wanted to make a documentary that was as distorted and mendacious as any fictional film, why not just make a fictional film?

The week's third release to be based on true events is Flame & Citron, which takes its title from the codenames of two of Denmark's most celebrated Second World War resistance fighters. Casino Royale's Mads Mikkelsen is Citron, a family man who's initially sickened by the idea of murdering anyone but who grows into a vicious killer. Moving in the opposite direction, Thure Lindhardt is Flame, a cool, dapper assassin who comes to be racked by guilt and uncertainty. It's a taut, complex thriller, but beware: in Flame & Citron, truth is far bleaker than fiction.

Also Showing: 08/03/2009

Wendy and Lucy (80 mins, 15)

Atmospheric, low-key indie short story starring Michelle Williams as a quietly resilient young woman who's driving north to Alaska to find work, with her dog as her only companion. When her car breaks down and she loses her dog, she's trapped in an Oregon mill town.

Surveillance (97 mins, 18)

Jennifer Chambers Lynch's debut film, Boxing Helena, was one of Hollywood's most infamous flops, and, 16 years on, her follow-up isn't a major improvement. Surveillance is a seedy, sadistic, sub-Tarantino effort starring Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond as FBI agents who turn up at a remote police station to interview the witnesses to a gruesome killing. It's a long, slow wait for the blatantly telegraphed twist ending.

Reverb (84 mins, 15)

Eva Birthistle and Leo Gregory play two musicians who lock themselves in a recording studio overnight and summon the malevolent spirit of a Sixties rock star. Idiotic, incoherent Brit horror.

Nicholas Barber

Arts and Entertainment
Just folk: The Unthanks

music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne with his Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actor

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rowan Atkinson is bringing out Mr Bean for Comic Relief

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea