By Grace Hogsten and Riley Dauber
Elm Copy Editor and Lifestyle Editor
On Aug. 11, Amazon released the original movie adaptation of Casey McQuiston’s new adult romance novel, “Red, White, and Royal Blue.” The book was originally published in 2019, and thanks to TikTok and the book’s use of the enemies-to-lovers trope, it grew in popularity. A film adaptation was announced that same year with Greg Berlanti set to produce it, and first-time director and Tony award-winning playwright Matthew Lopez was chosen to direct the project in 2021.
The film follows the romance between Alex (Taylor Zakar Perez), the son of the first woman president of the United States, and Henry (Nicholas Galitzine), the king of England’s younger grandson.
While the original novel is arguably a little too long with awkward pacing, especially when it comes to the romance, the film solves this issue by diving into the characters’ relationship right away. Over years of being forced to socialize at formal events thanks to their families’ political standings, Alex and Henry formed a rivalry.
This setup creates immediate tension, and the audience is instantly invested in the protagonist’s back-and-forth at a royal wedding. Stakes are high – pompous, important wedding guests look on with dismay as a quarrel erupts, causing the two to crash into the wedding cake.
To make up for cake incident, Alex and Henry are forced to get to know one another through interviews and public outings. They grow close and maintain a long-distance friendship with comical text messages and clever directional choices.
For example, in a scene where Alex and Henry are talking on the phone, the two are in the same room acting out the scene before they end the call. The decision to film the scene in this way helps to enhance the relationship between the two.
Tensions rise when the two reunite at Alex’s annual New Year’s party. The dance scene is a highlight of the film: everyone “gets low,” as the Lil Jon song playing suggests, except for Alex and Henry. The two glance at each other, and a few moments later in the snow, Henry is kissing Alex.
The characters’ romantic relationship begins early on, which allows it to grow and develop throughout the movie. Once their mutual attraction is established, the romance is able to take off.
Perez and Galitzine have excellent chemistry. Their banter keeps the audience on the edge of its seat, and their more serious moments convince the audience of their love.
Alex and Henry carry out a secret relationship filled with covert rendezvous and amorous emails. The pair’s intimate scenes are well composed, framed with their teasing quips and artistically shot scenes that communicate the couple’s attraction and genuine care for each other.
According to Variety, López worked with intimacy coordinator Robbie Taylor Hunt to accurately portray the sex scenes on screen.
“We need to make sure that it is unambiguous to anyone watching this scene what precisely is happening. We’re going to be accurate to the body positioning, to the breath,” López said.
Though many typical romantic comedy conflicts are based on miscommunication or problems existing solely between the main couple, “Red, White, and Royal Blue” features higher stakes, including emotional, familial, and political repercussions. Alex and Henry’s relationship is subject to international commentary, and Henry is forced into silence by his grandfather, the King.
The movie’s portrayal of a gay couple is refreshing and enjoyable. Alex and Henry are allowed to be unapologetically attracted to each other, and they are verbally and physically affectionate.
“Red, White, and Royal Blue” is a fun, heartwarming romantic comedy telling a queer story. Hopefully, its success encourages studios and streaming services to tell more stories about LGBTQ+ characters in the genres we love.