Red, White, and Royal Blue is a shining example that proves that chemistry is everything. It is literally the difference between a good love story and a bad one, and Red, White, and Royal Blue is gorgeous. The buildup of the relationship between Alex and Henry, the sensitivity with which they spoke and understood each other, along with the generous amount of flirting that for once made us blush more than cringe, is what makes this an excellent movie. We would go as far as to say that this is the kind of “power of social media” that book lovers care about—the kind that helps discover amazing stories and adapt them so wonderfully to the screen. Even the writers who translated the book from its covers to the screen deserve a pat on the back and a good raise for their acute and sharp judgment of how to make the movie as interesting, if not more so, than the book itself. We will always say that the book is superior, but this film keeps up with it very closely.
But coming to the movie Red, White, and Royal Blue itself, the question here is: what makes it such a good watch? It is a banal argument, even by well-wishers, that queer love is the same as straight love. That is because love is political, and the politics of queer love would never be the same as those of straight love. The proof lies in the stories themselves, even if they are not set in the political world. The way politics and prestige are attached to a person’s sexuality could not have been made clearer. It is making us think back to movies and series like Alex Strangelove, Heartstopper, or even Young Royals, and how finding the person one loves and wants to be with is never as simple as a name.
We believe it was Heartstopper that really explored how coming out is such a huge part of couples happiness and the strain it can put on their relationships and lives if they have to stay hidden. We got a glimpse of it through Henry in Red, White, and Royal Blue, and though we felt that there was a bit of a disconnect or under-explanation of the situation regarding his fears, he couldn’t have said it better that accepting that you love someone of the same gender can mean a trade of one prison to the other. That sentence right there was a look at the politics of aspiration and how one’s sexuality plays such a crucial role in it. The movie handled this topic in a feel-good manner, but one only needs to ask the right questions to understand that the storyline settles the matter once and for all: that love is indeed political.
On a different note, did anyone else think of Meghan Markle while watching this? We are not sure how these dots connected for us, but when Henry spoke about the relevance of the monarchy, it reminded us of the outpouring of the same dialogue from Meghan’s time. Maybe that memory is why we found the country’s collective progressiveness so unconvincing in the film’s finale. There have been quite a few openly gay royals in the history of the monarchy, which makes us think how different the story of Red, White, and Royal Blue would have been if Alex and Henry had been Alexa and Henrietta. What would it look like if sexism joined the party of homophobia? Would the film still remain feel-good?
Coming to a less serious topic, we have talked about the chemistry of the actors, but we must also address the smiles of the characters and how they are so unique to the role they are playing. Whether one has read the book or not, we will find that we are familiar with the characters of Alex and Henry. It doesn’t have to be explicitly stated for us to know what they are like and what we think of them. This is the power of good writing and the aforementioned chemistry. The point is that the way Alex and Henry smile is a reflection of their characters as written in the book. Alex is your easy-going, charming boy, whereas Henry is the poised person who differentiates between the way he smiles at work and the way he smiles at the person he loves.
Nicholas Galitzine captures this difference admirably, which is one of the reasons we love the casting of the film. We like it so much that it has sufficiently raised our standards, enough to make us apprehensive of the casting choices of another upcoming book adaptation, It Ends With Us, which has Blake Lively and Justin Baldoni playing the main roles. The chemistry between actors involves a certain physical chemistry as well, and we consider it compulsory if they are to play romantic partners on screen. We are thinking of a recent drama we watched, named King The Land, and as swoony (we learned this word from Henry) as it was, the main leads had no physical chemistry despite looking good together. Moments of intimacy between them felt like watching siblings kiss, and we are glad that Red, White, and Royal Blue does not suffer from this issue.
To talk about other things, the cinematography is beautiful, whether it be their time at parties, at a tea cafe with the Eiffel Tower as their background, or even the serene time they spend near the lake house. The scenery looked as good as them and is a huge part of what makes the movie so romantic.
If you ask us whether you should watch the movie as a book lover, we would recommend that you do. Much like Heartstopper and the very underrated book Call Me By Your Name, the movie brings its own beautiful take on the story and shows how a commitment to the essence of the narrative can keep the magic alive. But if you haven’t read the book, we would say go ahead and do that for the exact same reason, which is to see how the magic of the story can unfold in a different format.