When Casey McQuinston’s novel Red, White, and Royal Blue was released in 2019, Booktok propelled the novel into instant popularity. Naturally, it didn’t take long for the book to get a film adaptation.
I read Red, White, and Royal Blue in the spring of 2021, and I was among many eager fans who watched the film when it was released on Amazon Prime Video last month. The book revolves around a romantic relationship between Alex, the son of the fictional President of the United States, and Henry, a fictional British prince. While romance is the primary focus, , the book touches on themes of queerness with a hint of politics.
I felt the book was better than the film. It provides a more complex dive into the self-discovery and acceptance process the characters experience, and the ways navigating their queer identities impact their families. I also think the movie is one of the adaptations of its kind I’ve seen in a while.
While book to movie adaptations are nothing new—especially in the young adult genre—this adaptation signals a bright future for queer representation in literature.
Both versions of the story play well with romance tropes that make the story appealing to young adult audiences, and the film’s political and royal complications elevate its “enemies to lovers”storyline. While most political fiction focuses on powerful figures directly, this story analyzes the impact of power on these figures’ children. This connects it to young adult audiences.
This novel set the tone for many other LGBTQ+ romances released since, including Love and Other Disasters by Anita Kelly, and The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun, which are also known for their authentic portrayals of connection.
As expected, there area few differences between the movie and the book, most notably the omission of several important characters. Alex’s sister and best friend June doesn’t make it into the script, nor doesRafael Luna, the senator for Colorado and on of Alex’s biggest role models.
The film also changes the character of Queen Mary, Henry’s grandmother, to Henry’s grandfather, King James III.
Despite this, the film maintain the spirit of the novel, and the authentic and deep character development of both Alex and Henry translates from the book to screen well.
The movie excels in portraying the dichotomy of Alex’s public and personal identities. To the external world, Alex is ambitious, driven, and sometimes brash. Beneath his public persona, he grapples with self-doubt, insecurity, and the pressure to meet expectations associated with being born to a high-achieving political family.
Henry, on the other hand, is depicted as more reserved, dutiful, and burdened by the expectations placed on him as a member of the British royal family. The movie does well to show how hiding his true desires for love as a gay man and feelings for Alex weighs on him.
The movie addresses political themes through Alex’s character, who is immersed in the realm of American politics due to his mother’s role as President of the United States. The story delves into the challenges and expectations of being a public figure, navigating diplomacy, and dealing with media scrutiny.
Alex’s participation in his mother’s campaign forces him to reassess his priorities and values. Initially someone focused solely on his own ambitions and image, as Alex gets involved in the campaign, he begins to understand the importance of genuine connections, public service, and the impact of political decisions on people’s lives.
Despite plot and character changes, the interactions between Alex and Henry stay as impactful as they were in the book. The movie provides ample opportunity for Alex and Henry to engage in deeper conversations and spend time together, breaking down their initial animosity, leading to a deeper connection between them.
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