The Lost Prince

Once again, a GREAT hot tip from one of you guys! It came, once again, from Sweden. Thanks!

In 2003, BBC created a two-part mini-series that examined the brief, interesting life of Prince John, the youngest child of Britain's King George V and Queen Mary, played by, respectively, Tom Hollander ("Pride and Prejudice" - 2005 and "Pirates of the Caribbean" and Miranda Richardson ("Harry Potter" and "The Hours"). This engaging, extremely well-funded spectacular was written and directed by Britain's highly respected Stephen Poliakoff ("Gideon's Daughter" and "Friends and Crocodiles"). I was constantly amazed by the production values, the locations, the costumes and the thoroughness with which every scene was composed and filmed. (Please, please watch the DVD Extras!)

Prince John was born an epileptic at a time (prior to WWI) when even less was known about epilepsy than today, consequently he was sequestered out of sight and deprived of a standard education. This resulted in the family's impression that he was an "imbecile."

His devoted nanny/nurse Lalla, played brilliantly by Gina McKee ("Notting Hill" and "The Forsyte Saga") not only sees beyond his learning disabilities, she has the patience and skill to draw out his potential as a gardener, a musician and an artist. In addition, Johnnie's older brother, Georgie, never falters in his love and steadfast belief in his little brother's worth.

This is a marvelous 179 minutes that illustrate the European slide toward WWI, the Bolshevik Revolution, the genesis of the name "Windsor" and the minutiae of living as a "Royal." Of course, prior to WWI, the royal families of Europe were all related through Queen Victoria, so everyone was a cousin, aunt or uncle. This made it maddeningly confusing to the two little boys observing the machinations of politics. Poliakoff used a terrific device, having the royal family's primary functionary, played by British acting mainstay Bill Nighy ("Blow Dry" and "Love, Actually") explain to the boys, the (fatal) political ramifications of denying sanctuary to Tsar Nicholas and his family, the decision-making abilities of their uncle, the Kaiser, and the adversarial role of Parliament during those chaotic times. They also witnessed Suffragettes chaining themselves to the palace gates, much to the disgust of the queen.

Both the king and queen come across as fully realized people with their own quirks and preferences. For example, as soon as they assumed their crowns, the queen went about reclaiming gifts that had been given out by her predecessors. She then put them on display in the various royal homes and had handwritten catalog cards attached to the bottoms of every artifact. He, in turn, loved small rooms and stamp collecting. Neither one was much disposed to ruling a nation. AND their young son, Georgie can clearly see their shortcomings, as they fumble their way through a period of unprecedented political upheaval.

There are no stereotypical villains, no unnecessary scenes, no wasted dialog. This is a must-see video. Hie thee to a library or a rental outlet and treat yourselves to a rich and satisfying repast!