By Sofia Jesus
It all starts with a man coughing heavily. The year is 1947. The place Britain. The man is King George VI. But the story that unfolds from here is about a woman — a woman who would become Queen.
The Crown, created by Peter Morgan, and directed by Stephen Daldry, is a TV series launched this month by Netflix. It is about the early years of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.
In the first episode — the only one I have seen so far and which has already convinced me to keep watching the series — we encounter a young Princess, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, beautifully played by Claire Foy. We watch her get married with her beloved Philip Mountbatten (Matt Smith), play with her two young children and worry discretely as her father’s health deteriorates.
The focus of the first episode is on the King (Jared Harris), as he gains awareness of his serious health condition. The crown, at that time, resembles but a cloud hanging in the distance over Elizabeth’s head. She seems apart from all matters of state, but slowly, subtly gaining awareness that what lays in the future for her may not be as far away as everyone thought it would be.
Winston Churchill, elected then for the second time as Prime-Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is wonderfully interpreted by John Lithgow. “They keep trying to count him out, but he keeps getting back up,” the ill King comments.
Contrarily to other royal tales, it is not the frigidity of protocols and hierarchy that set the tone of The Crown — at least in the first episode; it is, instead, the warmth of family ties. “If your marriage is as happy as mine has been, I don’t want you to miss a single thing,” King George VI tells his newly-wed daughter while handing her a camera as a wedding present.
“Don’t you get sick of it all? And lonely?” Elizabeth asks her father later on. “I do,” he replies: “That is why it is so important to have the right person by your side.”
The sumptuosity of the setting — and the amazing, detailed portrait of the scenery those days — and the breathtaking choirs do remind us we are in presence of a royal tale, which could lead us to think of a fairy tale. But the rhythm, the dialogues, the amazing interpretations from the actors, the details — such as nervousness, hesitations, accomplice-like looks and smiles, or a teary King moved by the singing voices of the people when he faces, in secret, the expectancy of his own death — bring a dose of down-to-earth truthfulness and humanity to it all. For this is the true story of a family, and of a young woman who would happen to lead a country and be imprinted in history.
Created by: Peter Morgan
Directed by: Stephen Daldry
Starring: Claire Foy, Matt Smith, Jared Harris, John Lithgow