The Favourite is set in the early 18th century at the court of England's Queen Anne. The colours are muted and the sumptuousness of aristocratic life is underplayed in favour of the backstairs squalor and the grime of 18th century palaces, no matter how grand. This Queen's court is no place for tender feelings. At times, she herself suffers from the sharp tongues of those closest to her.
It centres on the rivalry between the Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz), the Queen's childhood friend and chief lieutenant – a woman of imperious wit and ruthless candour – and the Duchess' less fortunate cousin, Abigail Hill (Emma Stone), who begins her career at the palace as a chambermaid and winds up as Keeper of the Privy Purse.
Olivia Colman's Anne is poignant, exasperating and very funny. Weisz and Stone wage a tug-of-war over her affections with a sly cleverness that become much more poisonous. Stone executes the most dramatic change in temperament and personality without taking one false step.