For Your Consideration: The Favourite

Nathalie Sibal, Co-Copy Editor

“Some wounds do not close. I have many such. One just walks around with them and sometimes one can feel them filling with blood.” – Queen Anne (played by Olivia Colman)


In Yorgos Lanthimos’ unique period piece The Favourite, influence is demonstrated as an instrumental aspect in gaining power. However, power comes with a price that can affect both the person and their surroundings. It requires sacrifice, but complete devotion to a cause can damage the ambitious individual themselves.


The film is set during Queen Anne’s reign, with the War of Spanish Succession occurring as a subplot. The queen (Olivia Colman) is unwell and unfit to rule the entire country by herself due to her naïvety and quick temper. Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz), her lover and closest confidant, is entrusted with the duties originally reserved for Queen Anne. When Lady Sarah’s cousin Abigail Hill (Emma Stone) catches the attention of Anne, Abigail views this as a chance to restore her aristocratic title. Throughout the story, Sarah and Abigail battle through strategic games as they try to uphold their control over Anne.


In the beginning, Sarah holds power over Anne and the divided Parliament. Through manipulative tactics, she is able to persuade the queen into prolonging the war. Sarah is devoted to her country and dedicated to gaining a victory for England, no matter the cost. She is cunning, unapologetic, and ambitious, resembling the traits of a Machiavellian character. Her public persona is cold and heartless, yet some of her hard exterior diminishes when she is with Anne. Although the curt remarks prove otherwise, Sarah cares deeply about the queen. Having known each other since they were young girls, her connection with Anne grew over the years. Their friendship eventually turned into an affair, causing Anne’s dependency on Sarah to grow.


Enter Abigail. Impoverished and in desperate need of a job, she turns to her cousin Sarah for employment. Abigail is hired as a scullery maid, but eventually finds herself on Anne’s good side and views it as an opportunity to climb the social ladder. She bonds with Anne in a way that Sarah could not: through compassion. Kindness veils her ulterior motives, making it easier to gain the favor of Anne without suspicion. Similar to her cousin, she is quick and calculated. Abigail knows how to manipulate the Queen in her own subtle way. Yet in the end, after successfully unseating Sarah of her position, she becomes too comfortable. Abigail’s carelessness causes her to be reduced to the role of a servant once again, which throws her back into a never-ending cycle.


In the midst of all this is Queen Anne, unaware that she is being used as a pawn in their foul game. Having lived a life of tragedy, she is dependent on others to bring her happiness. Anne is easily influenced, yet manages to have a sense of stubbornness. Her quick temper and impulsive decisions proves to be the very detriment of her own happiness. As a result, she exiles Sarah, the one person who truly cared for her and understood her pain. In the end, Anne is left with artificial replacements of individuals she loved. Her wounds are temporarily healed, but it is only a matter of time before they open up once more.


As the film progressed, I was in complete awe of how layered and complex the women were. It is rare to see morally ambiguous female characters on screen, especially in positions reserved for men. The film went against the original laws of the past, and portrayed women in a way that most films fail to do — which is why it has gained my “favour” for the Oscars.