There's really no bad performance by the great English actress Judi Dench, but this romanticized Victorian historical drama treads close. It's the true story of John Brown (Billy Connolly), a blustery Scottish horseman hired to cheer up Queen Victoria (Dench) several years into her mourning for Prince Albert. The two became very close, close enough to generate some persistent and scandalous rumors about the nature of their relationship. This treatment of that relationship enforces almost every prejudice against tastefully dull British productions. Queen Victoria and Brown, the film's central characters, are unapologetically portrayed as an unlikable control freak and a dopey-but-loyal servant, respectively; neither has any claim on the audience's sympathies, despite their ceaseless displays of dignity and stiff upper lip. Every other character is a black-clad, small-minded prig who has no idea that there's a world worthy of consideration outside the stuffy corridors of Parliament. The drab tone amazingly remains intact even when Connolly runs full-frontally nude into the ocean. Any sense of drama or conflict hinges on the question of whether the British monarchy can retain its dignity, but can anyone apart from the most devoted of Anglophiles really appreciate the panic over doubts about the queen's relevance or the High Church's monopoly on religion? Mrs. Brown inadvertently suggests that one of history's greatest tragedies is that John Brown didn't just suck Victoria's toes in public and save us all a century of grief.

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