Austin Film Festival 2021 Review: SPENCER

Rating: B+

If you are not sure if you want to view Spencer because it is another film to talk about the late Princess Diana’s life, then know that Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín (Jackie, Neruda) has not created a typical biopic about her. Instead, he has focused on a specific time in her life and starts the film with the statement “A fable from a true story,” thus the audience is informed that this is not completely factual. Larraín directs the film based on Stephen Knight’s script that provides a glimpse into her life over the Christmas holidays one year and see all that she faced in her personal life, as well as the challenges of daily life as a princess with very strict traditions. Kristen Stewart portrays Princess Diana and this performance is one where you forget what other work she has done in the past as she is now so immersed as the princess, she appears to be the princess. No doubt with this performance she will be among the nominations for awards this year.

The Christmas weekend selected to be the focus of this film is not just one of many, but one in 1991 where Diana (Stewart) is still married to Prince Charles (Jack Farthing), who acts very cold to her and partially pretends to be her spouse. At the Queen’s Sandringham estate, Diana relishes her role as a mother to her sons, William (Jack Nielen) and Harry (Freddie Spry). She adamantly does not want them to pursue shooting guns (they are still very young) as is the tradition among the royal family. This was not the first of her rebellion this weekend, in fact the film starts with Diana driving herself to Sandringham House without a chauffeur or bodyguard. She loses her way, stops at a food venue to ask for directions, leaving all the customers and staff in disbelief that it is the royal. Diana cared in the least that she was not timely to the events and watch her take them on.

In this story, Diana has few to confide in or listen to her other than her tailor and friend Maggie (Sally Hawkins), and the estate’s chef Darren (Sean Harris), who is sympathetic, but she feels isolated. She is required to follow the unbending protocol of the estate, with no allowance to say or do anything outside the boundaries of the dominating men like her spouse, Charles and Major Gregory, a war veteran who now works for the queen, with eyes on everyone, at all times.  No wonder she felt a sense of mania.

The cinematographer Claire Mathon (Atlantics, Portrait of a Lady on Fire) captures many close – ups of Diana providing the feeling of intrusion in her life that she felt. The costume work by Jacqueline Durran covers so many of Diana’s outfits for each event. The array of fashions were not always something Diana wants to wear and voices her opinion to the dresser.

Editor Sebastián Sepúlveda provides a captivating look into her childhood life leading up to where she finds herself dutifully at the estate that holiday. Jonny Greenwood’s score compliments the film.

Even if you are not a fan of following royal life, this filmmaker’s vision and Stewart’s performance are worth watching this film. Spencer arrives in American theaters on Nov. 5, 2021.

Source: Neon

Leave a comment