The Special Relationship has always had a noticeable amount of homoerotic tension, or so it seems. The instances of Blair and Bush exchanging looks, or the famous breakup speech by Prime Minister Hugh Grant in Love Actually, all point to this undertone. Now, join the ranks of these moments is Red, White & Royal Blue, a film adaptation of Casey McQuiston’s bestselling BookTok novel. This movie takes the intercontinental dynamic of flirty banter and negging to another level by having a brooding British royal fall in love with the son of the American president. From the beginning, the film is filled with witty self-awareness and keen observations, but it eventually falls apart as it merges with the tired genre of royal soap opera.
Prince Henry, played by Nicholas Galitzine, is portrayed as the arrogant and uptight royal, while Alex, played by Taylor Sakhar Perez, represents the charming and idealistic next generation of a political dynasty. Their rivalry begins at the Melbourne Climate Conference and has been tense ever since. It’s a clash between two cultures – one born into privilege and the other a product of nepotism, a typical enemies-to-lovers trope loved by BookTok fans. Their animosity escalates into a fight that results in the destruction of a £75k cake, becoming a headline and sparking fears of a diplomatic incident.
Directed and co-written by Matthew Lopez, best known for his play The Inheritance, Red, White & Royal Blue infuses modern sitcom wit with moments of grace. The film captures the absurdity of the press’s relationship with royals and politicians as Henry and Alex unite to win back public opinion. Eventually, they discover they actually quite like each other, leading to teasing texts, late-night phone calls, and discussions about literature. The casting of Perez and Galitzine as the young lovers is a stroke of genius, transforming them into living Disney princes. Uma Thurman portrays Alex’s mother and the American president, delivering a camp performance that adds to the film’s charm.
However, the film loses its footing when it delves into more serious themes. The potential for rich storytelling lies in exploring the royals, symbols of power who are simultaneously public figures and enigmas. The Crown has masterfully depicted the monarchy as a prison, and here, traditionalism becomes a force that compels Henry to deny his true self and sexuality. Yet, the script becomes clichéd, with Henry lamenting, “That’s my life!” and Alex responding, “You don’t have to accept it!” The plot draws heavily from Prince Harry’s publicized struggles and grievances, echoing his sentiment of being paraded around by the palace after his father’s death. Additionally, there is an air of liberal fantasy in the film, with a Black female prime minister and a female American president, juxtaposed against a homophobic royal family. This disjointedness with reality feels as if the film wants to have its cake and eat it too.
As for the sex scenes, Red, White & Royal Blue, much like other BookTok favorites, carries a romantic rather than explicit tone. Interspersed with shots of a spirited polo match, the scenes evoke emotions rather than aiming for pure sensuality. Undoubtedly, this movie will be a hit, with clips already going viral on TikTok. However, it falls short of the high expectations set by the overwhelming hype.
Directed by Matthew Lopez and featuring Taylor Sakhar Perez, Nicholas Galitzine, Uma Thurman, Stephen Fry, Sarah Shahi, Sharon D Clarke, and Clifton Collins Jr., Red, White & Royal Blue runs for 118 minutes. It will be available on Prime Video starting from August 11.