On the Screen: A romance for idealists

‘Red, White and Royal Blue’ a surprisingly biting romcom

“Red, White & Royal Blue” is a sharply written romantic comedy about the son of the President of the United States and the grandson of the King of the United Kingdom. It’s good, it’s jokes are surprisingly cutting, and it’s filled with great performances by lesser known actors.

The film is based on a 2019 romance novel by Casey McQuiston and recently debuted on Amazon Prime Video. Its opening moments didn’t wow me, instead they had me deeply in fear that I had made a mistake of my Wednesday evening. Fortunately, it took a stunning — slapstick — left turn into being a perfectly charming night in.

The film is handily buoyed in an endlessly endearing performance by Taylor Zakhar Perez as Alex Claremont-Diaz, the son of President Ellen Claremont, who’s played with a silly southern accent by Uma Thurman. He enters into a star-crossed enemies-to-lovers romance with Prince Henry of the United Kingdom — played by Nicholas Galitzine. Hijinks ensue.

It’s not just the leads who carry the film; there’s some very fun supporting comedic roles like Aneesh Sheth’s Amy and Sarah Shahi’s Zahra who handily steal multiple scenes.

The film tackles interesting themes of idealism and self-determination, taking Alex and Henry’s struggle for privacy and acceptance and fairly seamlessly grafting it onto a metaphor for the conversation around “coming out” for the wider LGBTQIA+ community.

It’s in the film’s depiction of these characters — young, passionate and influential — that I found my only struggle with the film. The film is refreshingly willing to discuss political topics. Alex is Latino. The son of an immigrant, he discusses growing up without seeing people that look like himself in positions of power. He goes on to be shown actively and explicitly affecting change, becoming a leader in his mother’s campaign and becoming an icon through his relationship with Henry.

I watched “Red, White and Royal Blue” while the Matanuska-Susitna School Board stripped its student representative of their right to participate in the public process after they criticized that body’s actions in regards to reviewing content of library books. There was a radical dissonance — far greater than the romance of the son of a president and the grandson of a king — in seeing Alex flip Texas for the Democratic party, become a champion for the Queer community and himself explicitly leave the world a better place.

The world of “Red, White and Royal Blue” is one in which passionate young people are empowered to make things better. In that way, it fails to resemble the world we live in. I’ve seen passionate young people like the ones depicted in this film seek acceptance for their sexual identities and skin colors, I’ve seen them pursue a better society and make an effort to combat climate change. The world has spun on, uncompromising and still led by the old, the rich and the white.

It was hard to reconcile the fantasy world of the film with the one we’re all living in today, but these sequences are impossible to divorce from the central thread of the film. Therein seems to lie the central theme of the film — idealism. “Red, White and Royal Blue” paints a radically idealistic view of the future, and explicitly scoffs at the idea of taking a more realistic approach to its problems. Its leads are, as Thurman’s President Claremont says, “open-hearted, fearless and alive to a brighter, bolder future.”

“Red, White and Royal Blue” should’ve just been a fun rom-com, but it left me thinking — and it had biting jokes that left me surprised and more than entertained. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.