Pretty, but hollow.

FILM: W.E. tells the story of Wally (Abbie Cornish), a Manhattan woman in an unhappy marriage who has an obsession with Wallis Simpson, who married Edward VIII.

Through flashbacks, director Madonna catalogues Wallis’ life – from her earlier marriages to her relationship with the prince. In-between we witness Wally’s relationship with her husband nosedive.

Wally eventually manages to escape her miserable life and finds love in an unexpected place.

The juxtaposition of the two stories paints a rather superficial portrait of the two women’s lives.

But it’s hard to connect with either woman on a more substantial level as too much time is spent lingering over shots of beautiful decor and settings. The inner strength of the two are watered down by an over-reliance on making sure every frame is picture-perfect.

It is an unwanted distraction in a movie that could have been so much more, but is let down by its lack of emotional ambition. Bluntly put, it’s a romantic drama sprinkled with delusions of period piece splendour.

We flit from an alarming domestic abuse scene to martinis being served at a party. Strike a pose. Vogue.

At nearly two hours long, W.E. is a meandering, stuttering piece of film-making and could be seen merely as a pretender prequel to The King’s Speech.

But it is one of Madonna’s better ventures into film following well-documented flops over the years. Style triumphs over substance in W.E. But it is a hollow victory.

SPECIAL FEATURES: None. – Yunus Kemp