Directed by Pablo Larraín
Stars- Kristen Stewart, Timothy Spall, Jack Farthing, Sean Harris and Sally Hawkins
Every now and then, a film drops that is next to perfection. One where it hits in all its categories, technically, script wise, and acting. A film that as you watch it, it makes you recognize just how much you love cinema and why you love it. That’s what Spencer was for me.
A reimagining about what could have happened on the Christmas weekend when Princess Diana decided to leave Prince Charles
This telling of what happens is after-all from Diana’s perspective, and therefore it should solely be her perspective that must be told. we get that fully, we dive into all of the Princess of Wales emotions over the weekend- her joys, her highs, and of course her lows and suspicions of everyone associated with the Royal Family. Allowing Diana to be the sole narrator and sole focus, let’s the viewers fully understand her point of view and the hopelessness that she felt heading into another Christmas with the family she felt had stripped her of the parts that she once loved. Doing so allowed Pablo Larraín two things, it one allowed the audience to experience the events solely from Diana’s point of view, which in turn were driven directly into the madness ourselves as we dive head first into the plausibility that maybe all these creaks and noises really were more than just noises of an old house. Secondly allowing this story from Diana’s perspective rather than what many have done before telling the story the way historians know it, gives her all the power because while others mention Camilla- Larraín only hints at Ms. Parker Bowles with a stare. The Royal family themselves feel intense and rather ominous as they exchange displeasing glances with one another over the slightest things that Diana would do that was unconventional for the Christmas period.
Larraín focusing on a singular event rather than the entire relationship, marriage, and closing tragedy is a powerful decision. The viewer can focus without worry about her future death. Rather we focus on Diana finding her voice, combating her bulimia, remembering her past, and finding the courage to move on. Larraín opts to focus on the humanity behind the figure, and finding the humanity after years within a family that’s larger than life. Some of my favorite moments that Larraín opts for instead of going with some stereotypical holiday arguments or massive melodramatic blowups between Charles and Di- is the moments we see of her being a mom, and loving her children, we get so many just cute scenes of her with, Harry and William dancing and playing and visiting with their mom talking about normal boy things.
On a technical level it’s a masterpiece as well. The cinematography is gorgeous, and the hand camera is effective in creating tension. It creates these claustrophobic feels as if the walls of the large estate were becoming longer and longer, thinner and thinner. Effectively creating this dreaded feeling as if her bedrooms walls which were so limiting were beginning to swallow her whole. The cinematography was also beautiful the bits of grainy like colour really setting the time period. There’s an effective scene where Charles and Diana are talking over a pool table and the use of color to tell the story is incredible. The iconic poster for the film, it’s messaging is revealed in such an impactful way.
The sound and score are beautiful. Jonny Greenwood has a gift, and he delivers one of the more effective scores of the year. It never takes over the scene, rather quieting down for moments of tension or even looks between Diana and staff or family members. It blares freely and powerfully as she begins to gain her confidence. The scores confidence grows as Diana grows around it. The production design and costume both must be applauded as well, they effectively tell the time period and the moods of the film, how Diana truly stood out with her color choices and the constant brashness that was her wanting freedom to go against pre chosen outfits, to look bright, not in an attempt to stand out, but to be herself and happy.
Lastly, what needs to be said is the acting. Kristen Stewart delivers one of the all time greatest performance. So much has already been said about her work as Lady Diana so I wouldn't be able to add much more on the topic. Rather I will echo the sentiment, every move, every mannerism, every single eye movement, stare, and way she talked was identical to Lady Di. She not only acted as her, but Stewart found herself transported into the character- she was Diana Spencer from the moment we met her through to the final scene. She was Diana Spencer, through the happiest of scenes, and the most emotionally charged of scenes. Stewart should win the Academy Award for Best Actress, and should now easily slate into people’s best actors currently living lists.
In the end, Spencer is about finding oneself. Doing what makes you happy, and finding the confidence to push through even when things feel like the cards are shuffled around you. Pablo Larraín delivers in the same breath a film that feels so tense and claustrophobic like a thriller, but also in the next moment a beautiful tribute to an incredible woman who had such an impact on those around her, and the world. No movie may be perfect, but this one hits on everything I look for- that it’s close to the mark.