Metascore
73

Generally favorable reviews - based on 27 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 22 out of 27
  2. Negative: 0 out of 27
  1. Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    Nov 8, 2012
    90
    With its sumptuous settings, urgent romance and intellectual substance, A Royal Affair is a mind-opener crossed with a bodice-ripper.
  2. Reviewed by: Joe Williams
    Jan 17, 2013
    88
    Although the brazen lovers, bellicose ministers and backstabbing handmaidens are familiar elements, the film is so handsomely mounted that we happily endure the ride until the turning of the screws in the tragic last act.
  3. Reviewed by: Lawrence Toppman
    Dec 6, 2012
    88
    Writers Rasmus Heisterberg and Nicolaj Arcel are known in America for the original version of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." This film is the exact opposite: stately instead of propulsive, emotionally warm instead of chilly, lit by candles and sun instead of flashlights and neon.
  4. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Nov 29, 2012
    88
    Takes a fascinating chapter in Danish history, little-known to general audiences, and presents it engagingly.
  5. Reviewed by: Steven Rea
    Nov 15, 2012
    88
    Historical drama of the highest order - teeming with big ideas, and anchored by the nicely nuanced performances of Vikander and Mikkelsen.
  6. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Nov 7, 2012
    88
    A big budget historical drama that carries Denmark's hopes into the Oscar season. It provides still more exposure for the rising Danish star Mads Mikkelsen, the latest male sex symbol of the art house crowd.
  7. Reviewed by: Ella Taylor
    Nov 8, 2012
    85
    While it's lavish and lush in all the expected costume-drama ways, A Royal Affair never bogs down in period detail. What drives the film, along with great acting, is the appetite of director Nikolaj Arcel and his boisterous co-writer Rasmus Heisterberg ("I want a fun queen!" wails Christian) for the queasy workings of political gamesmanship both above and below board.
  8. Reviewed by: Sam Adams
    Nov 7, 2012
    83
    Newcomer Følsgaard is the wild card, but he manages to make the king both villain and victim, sometimes a vindictive schemer, at others far-eyed and helpless, a puppet for the forces behind him.
  9. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Nov 15, 2012
    80
    Set in 18th-century Denmark, it's an intellectual costume drama. It's a romance involving big ideas, the biggest ideas. It's long, it's serious, it's a lot of fun.
  10. Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    Nov 8, 2012
    80
    This highly polished costume drama is exceptionally well-made and a model of intelligent restraint, but it is also unapologetically earnest and a bit on the bloodless side.
  11. Reviewed by: Elizabeth Weitzman
    Nov 8, 2012
    80
    Mikkelsen's unconventional features and intense talent lend a compelling edge to this expansive period piece.
  12. Reviewed by: Mary Pols
    Nov 8, 2012
    80
    A slam dunk in the genre, satisfying every period piece craving: torrid affair, mad king, bastard child, throngs at the palace gates and a history lesson that will be fresh to many.
  13. Reviewed by: Anna Smith
    Nov 4, 2012
    80
    A voluptuous slice of historical drama that will satisfy period fans and Mikkelsen admirers equally.
  14. Reviewed by: Roger Moore
    Jan 30, 2013
    75
    A Royal Affair...is a lovely history lesson, but a film without the spark of invention that makes this modern parable feel modern.
  15. Reviewed by: Connie Ogle
    Jan 17, 2013
    75
    It digs deep into the heart and soul of its lovers, who are idealistic, intelligent and passionate - and yet still risk everything they might gain for stolen moments together.
  16. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Nov 20, 2012
    75
    A Royal Affair is tosh but it's ripely entertaining tosh, with emotions as flamboyant as the window treatments. There is nothing like a Dane.
  17. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    Nov 16, 2012
    75
    But even appreciated simply as a little-known chapter of European history, it proves consistently engrossing, edifying and affecting.
  18. Reviewed by: Lisa Schwarzbaum
    Nov 14, 2012
    75
    The storytelling in A Royal Affair is traditional bordering on square. But the historical drama itself - about how an idealistic German doctor influenced a silly king, romanced a queen, and brought the Age of Enlightenment to 18th-century Denmark - is kind of amazing.
  19. Reviewed by: A.O. Scott
    Nov 8, 2012
    70
    A Royal Affair suffers from the richness of the historical material - there is so much going on here - and also, perhaps, from a patriotic desire to treat it reverently. Unfortunately it never fully comes to life.
  20. Reviewed by: Kimberley Jones
    Dec 5, 2012
    67
    It is certainly competent, lovely to look at, but leaves little lasting impression.
  21. Reviewed by: Liam Lacey
    Jan 31, 2013
    63
    For all its incident, A Royal Affair is slow and picturesquely framed – more of a languorously animated coffee-table book than a gripping drama.
  22. Reviewed by: Farran Smith Nehme
    Nov 8, 2012
    63
    A Royal Affair is basically a good-looking set of historical Cliffs Notes. There, is however, one excellent reason to see it: Folsgaard, who by the end has made his betrayed and bereft Christian into a figure of genuine tragedy.
  23. Reviewed by: Henry Barnes
    Nov 4, 2012
    60
    The chemistry between Mikkelsen and Vikander barely simmers, when it should boil. Nevertheless, it's a fascinating affair of state.
  24. Reviewed by: Ellen E. Jones
    Nov 4, 2012
    60
    The stand-out, though, is Mikkel Boe Folsgaard as the King. Teetering on the edge of sanity, he is both detestable and sympathetic.
  25. Reviewed by: Nick Schager
    Nov 7, 2012
    50
    Director Arcel handles the material with a stately grace that compensates for the story's predictable trajectory, though humdrum period detail and monotonous pacing too often leave the proceedings feeling only partially aroused.
  26. Reviewed by: Andrew Schenker
    Nov 4, 2012
    50
    The film is too tepid in its treatment of its central character and her situation to generate any real emotive charge.
  27. Reviewed by: Keith Uhlich
    Nov 6, 2012
    40
    Intrigue and eroticism abound, all of it watchable, none of it particularly exciting. And the misty widescreen photography lends the proceedings a funereal air of respectability that's like catnip to Oscar voters.
User Score
7.8

Generally favorable reviews- based on 37 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 9 out of 9
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 9
  3. Negative: 0 out of 9
  1. Nov 13, 2012
    9
    Near perfection. A historical romance/drama (maybe even a twisted coming of age tale) that never seems laughable or dull. Each of the main characters are complex and given their fair portrayals. Every motivation seems remarkably human and understandable, even if cringe-worthy. It did feel a little long, but that was its only flaw. Beautifully shot, acted, edited, scored, everything. Full Review »
  2. Lyn
    Mar 25, 2014
    8
    Can't get enough of Mads Mikkelsen, who was so riveting in Oscar-nominated "The Hunt" (2013) and so riveting here as well. This was a nicely told period piece that may bring a couple of others to mind at times -- "Marie Antoinette" in the young queen's situation; "Amadeus" with the somewhat crazy young king and the palace treachery. Danish history probably isn't high on everyone's list, but this was an interesting film. Full Review »
  3. Dec 31, 2013
    7
    A historical lesson from a period drama about the age of the Enlightenment in Denmark, a national revolution conducted by a German foreigner Dr. Johann Struensee (Mikkelsen) and his romantic involvement with Caroline Mathilde (Vikander), the Queen of King Christian VII (Boe Følsgaard), another exemplar of how arranged marriage really sucks!

    A ROYAL AFFAIR is an Oscar BEST FOREIGN PICTURE nominee, a sumptuous production (art direction, costume etc.) for the eyes and an irresistible bait for period fanatics (count me in). Intriguingly, it is not a conventional love triangle since there is no love at all between Caroline and Christian from the very first sight, once Caroline bears their son and fulfills her obligation as a Queen, their connubiality is only a token guise while Caroline and Johann are the star-crossed lovers, but their romantic rapport surprisingly has been outshone by Christian’s devout friendship towards Johann, it is a territory many historical pictures dare not to explore, Christian is a one-of-a-kind character, a mad king or a spoiled child, his mentality is so capricious and unpredictable (maybe thanks to the excessive masturbation), thus whenever he is on screen, the attention all turns to him, even an actor as excellent as Mikkelsen cannot turn back the tide, and the newcomer Boe Følsgaard owns the character out-and-out. He is a lonely king in desperate need of a true friend and when he finds Johann, their mutual interest in theatre connects resoundingly and from then on, Christian confides his unconditional obedience to Johann, allows him to govern the country and execute the avant-garde revolution against all odds, even Caroline, when he finally finds out their adultery, is expendable in trade of maintaining the status quo with Johann (it is hard not to divine maybe there is something more than friendship lies beneath the surface).

    But their immature reformation is intrinsically ephemeral, Johann is not a qualified politician as his overhasty actions boomerang, he loses his allies easily, what’s more fatal is the scandal puts him against the whole nation (having an affair and even a daughter with the Queen), and gives his rivals a too-grand opportunity to annihilate him, his only chance is Christian, but at this moment, who is just a puppet king completely beaten up. Mikkelsen is exceedingly captivating in the final scenes when he realizes his doom is inevitable, he gives incredible nuances as a man’s ultimate fear when death awaits mercilessly. Internationally acclaimed Dyrholm and Dencik (if one can recall their idiosyncratic collaboration in A SOAP 2006, 8/10) are cast as the King’s stepmother and her conservative aide, not too much screen time though but Dyrholm eludes a more accessible intensity instead of the corny evil stepmother default.

    Anyhow, the film is a delight output from Denmark, a tinge protracted one may complain and the powerlessness to witness goodwill goes to perish is also disheartening, but as a fine piece of art, defects cannot obscure the splendor and the virtues.
    Full Review »