The Favourite. Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos. Fox Searchlight Pictures. 2019

Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite explores the life of Queen Anne and the competition between her servants Abigail and Sarah to become her ‘favourite’. The film uses comedy to provide an alternative depiction of the often idealised royal courts, creating an image of debauchery and cruelty instead. Whilst the film focuses on the relationship between these three women, animals are also heavily featured throughout, the most significant of these being Anne’s pet rabbits, who serve as a replacement for the 17 children she has lost in her life. Whilst the film’s comedic nature oftentimes borders on the absurd, ridiculous and abject, the presence of these domestic rabbits interjects an element of tragedy within the film, consistently reminding us of the characters’ trauma and challenging the romanticised view of status and royalty.

The rabbits consistently haunt the film’s frames, often obscured in the background whilst the sound of their feet is overlaid with the film’s non-diegetic soundtrack, serving as a constant reminder of Anne’s loss throughout the film’s more comedic elements. For example, Fig.0.1. shows an established shot of Anne in a melancholic, and posed position. This is juxtaposed by the rabbits running out of the frame with no direction, foregrounding the idea that whilst humans are capable of acting and following direction, animals are not. This results in a more emotional reaction from the viewer when confronted with the rabbits. For example, later on in this scene we see one of the bunnies being crushed under Abigail’s foot, making the rabbits a significant tool in conveying the film’s shift from the  comedic to something darker and more traumatic. Actress Emma Stone said on filming this scene, “It didn’t hurt the rabbit what I had to do, but it was just the concept of it made me sick to my stomach…, she is at a point of cruelty to something so small and vulnerable, and it’s just to exercise her power”. [1]

Fig. 0.2. Depicts this moment in which Abigail crushes the rabbit, the close-up shot emphasises the superiority Abigail feels she has over the rabbit due to her increased status in the royal courts, her foot a dominating force within the frame. The camera is positioned so that the rabbits eye is facing the camera, directly confronting the viewer with this act of unjustified violence to an animal that is often perceived in the human imagination as ‘cute’ and ‘innocent’


In the film’s final sequence, (Fig.0.3) we see Abigail on the floor by Anne’s feet , forced to massage her leg. This position parallels the close-up shot of the rabbit under Abigail’s foot. This image is overlaid with close-up shots of Anne, and another, of the rabbits running around. Here, this shot brings together the lives of the two women and the rabbits, challenging the superiority Abigail earlier tried to assert over the bunny, in turn, bringing into question human conceptions of royalty and status and the idea that these elevate a human – Lanthimos demonstrates that in the end, we are all animals.

[1] Sharon Knolle, All Your ‘The Favourite’ Rabbit Questions, Answered (2019) <> [accessed 1 May 2020].