‘Spencer’ hauntingly illustrates Princess Diana’s royal prison

Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in SPENCER
Pablo Larrain

Hey, Hollywooders! What’s Good in the ‘Wood?

After much anticipation, I caught a Saturday showing of Spencer, one of the many new movie releases out now in movie theaters. I looked at theaters near me to compare movie showtimes and chose the 2:05 p.m. movie showtime at the Showcase Cinemas theater near me. My mom decided to join me due to her deep love of Princess Diana and interest in seeing her biopic on screen.

While the small auditorium in the theater was a little crowded for a Saturday afternoon, we had open seats next to us on both sides. The movie theater felt pretty empty, and there was almost no line at the concession stand!

I’ve had a growing fascination for Spencer ever since the movie’s first teaser trailer dropped this past August. The trailer doesn’t introduce much dialogue and instead shares glimpses of somber facial expressions by Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana. At the same time, a choral version of “Perfect Day” by Lou Reed plays in the background.

Although I was not alive to understand the magnitude of Princess Diana, my mother admired the princess and felt the world’s sadness when she passed. As we waited for the film to start, we were unaware of the immense effect this film would have on both of us.  

In Spencer, Kristen Stewart gives a breakthrough performance as Princess Diana

In the Pablo Larraín biopic, Kristen Stewart takes on the role of the Princess of Wales, reaching her breaking point. The film imagines what might have happened those three fateful days around Christmas 1991 when Diana finally decided to divorce Prince Charles (Jack Farthing) and leave the British royal family.

Kristen commands the movie as she captures the distress and apparent anxiety she faces during her time at the queen’s estate. Princess Diana is alone with herself for most of the film, struggling to stay afloat as her mental health deteriorates. Kristen Stewart lets her facial expressions take center stage as she looks longingly in sadness at the life in front of her.

While Kristen is her own person, there’s this immediate familiarity in her portrayal as the late princess. She might look like Diana with a blond wig and high-waisted jeans, but it’s the pain in Kristen’s eyes that makes the performance so powerful. Diana could break at any moment, and everyone was waiting to see when she did.

The intense moments lighten at times when Diana is with her sons, Prince William (Jack Neilan) and Prince Harry (Freddie Spry) and royal dresser and friend Maggie (Sally Hawkins). Amidst Diana’s breakdown, Kristen Stewart showcases the pure love and joyful nature of the princess.

Spencer envelops audiences into a prisoners’ tale

In the first minutes of the film, we are introduced to pastel-colored shots of fields and castles. Instantly, we feel the incoming weight of tension as a hazy fog sets up the rest of the movie. With an intense and beautiful soundtrack by Jonny Greenwood, string instruments blare out of the theater’s speakers. The music gets louder and louder as Diana gets more anxious.

When Diana steps into the queen’s estate, the movie shifts to a game of cat and mouse; she is a prisoner with all eyes on her. Everyone from advisors, cooks, maids, Prince Charles, and the press try to control her. We follow Diana as her psyche ultimately erupts in confusion, hysterics, and fear.

Overall, Spencer tries to capture the inner turmoil Princess Diana dealt with at the hands and duty of the royal family. When the movie finally reached the end, my energy hit a low point. I was emotionally exhausted from all the sadness and grief that played in front of me. I never thought a movie could have that much power.

Spencer: What critics thought

Spencer first premiered at the Venice Film Festival and received positive reviews.


 
 
 
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In The Guardian review of Spencer, Mark Kermode writes, “Pablo Larraín’s thematic companion piece to his 2016 hit Jackie offers a bold and somewhat mysterious portrait of a woman searching for her own identity, conjuring “a fable from a true tragedy” that, for all its dramatic invention, feels remarkably truthful.”

Vulture’s Allison Wilmore calls the film “a devastating portrait of a princess too sane to play the royals’ game.”

Want to know what others are saying about Diana? Check out the Best Reactions to Movies Out Now. If you’re looking to head to the movie theater soon to see the film, check out our guide on how to do so safely!

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