Alex Claremont-Diaz, the son of the President of the United States, and Britain’s Prince Henry have a lot in common: Stunning good looks, undeniable charisma, international popularity … and a total disdain for each other. Separated by an ocean, their long-running feud hasn’t really been an issue, until a disastrous — and very public — altercation at a royal event becomes tabloid fodder, driving a potential wedge in US/British relations at the worst possible time.

Going into damage-control mode, their families and handlers force the two rivals into a staged “truce.” But as Alex and Henry’s icy relationship unexpectedly begins to thaw into a tentative friendship, the friction that existed between them sparks something deeper than they ever expected. 

Alex and Henry stand close together inside a dimly lit museum

Taylor Zakhar Perez and Nicholas Galitzine as Alex and Henry in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Image courtesy of Glamour and Prime Video.

An adaption should not be a carbon copy of the original. In particular, movie adaptations of books should streamline — or broaden — a story where needed, distilling it to its essence. But they should never flatten the content. Who wants two-dimensional storytelling — adapted or not? 

Red, White & Royal Blue — Casey McQuiston‘s novel — is near and dear to my heart. So I was always going to be more critical of the film than the average viewer. That said, I did try to give Red, White & Royal Blue fresh eyes and watch it without prejudice. I succeeded about 50/50. Spoiler alert: so did the movie. 

RELATED: Book Review: I Kissed Shara Wheeler

For the life of me, I could not understand some of the deviations from the source material. Some did serve the medium. However, from erasing characters and sexual identity crises to changing seemingly random details, the overall effect is a more standard rom-com. Don’t get me wrong: the book gets cheesy too, but all the extra details make it more chili-spiced maple syrup than saccharine. 

It’s entirely possible to enrich the original work when adapting or have it be its own thing. A recent, successful example is Heartstopper. The show’s second season is not a scene-for-scene retelling of the graphic novels. But it captures their essence and is its own strong entity. Similarly, The Hunger Games movies broke beyond the main character’s narrow POV into something larger. So, while I usually expect a bit of a gap between the book and the movie, I am not a “the book was better” person by nature.

Red, White & Royal Blue The Book is a fairy tale about extremely messy people in a messed up situation. Red, White & Royal Blue The Movie is a streaming-budget fairy tale about two Hollywood types in a low-stakes situation backed by sparkly music. And in some ways, that’s to the movie’s benefit. We’re still in the era of queer things breaking ground, and this does do that.

RELATED: 10 Books With Queer Protagonists to Read All Year Round

This was the first film of this subgenre I’ve seen that features a softly-lit, obvious-what’s-happening anal sex scene. And I did not have the words “bottoming” or “Truvada®” coming out of Uma Thurman‘s mouth on my bingo card. So, 👏👏👏, etc., for that. Red, White & Royal Blue got an “R” rating, but it’s not that steamy — and certainly less so than the novel. And I will always be annoyed with media that acts like penetration is the only thing that counts as sex. So, you know, Hollywood’s still Hollywooding. 

Much more so than in the book, Alex isn’t particularly likable initially. But actor Taylor Zakhar Perez makes him infinitely watchable anyway. While Nicholas Galitzine is perfect as Henry, the movie somehow turns him into a cipher, removing his quirks, passions and personality. This is strange because, whereas the book is from Alex’s POV, the movie could have expanded its storytelling rather than narrowing it here. 

RELATED: Check out our other movie reviews!

However, the chemistry between the two leads elevates the film from something forgettable to something I’d watch again on a rainy day. They’re swoony together. Red, White & Royal Blue capitalizes on this asset, doing fun camera work to keep the actors in the same room even when their characters aren’t. The scenes when Alex and Henry first flirt and get to know one another are the film’s best. 

Red, White & Royal Blue is not a bad movie; it’s just not the movie this book deserved. Those who haven’t read the novel may like it more. But … all in all, it just made me want to reread the book.  

Red, White & Royal Blue premieres on Amazon Prime Video on August 11, 2023. 🎞️🇬🇧👬🇺🇸

Content warnings

6 Books RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE Fans Have to Check Out Before the Movie

Follow them
Latest posts by Melis Noah Amber (see all)