By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
I recently watched two similarly themed movies recently; both of which deal with unhappy women in crisis. The first one, which I also recently reviewed, is an Israeli film titled Woman Alive, a powerful and haunting movie that depicts a Jewish woman who feels trapped in a loveless marriage and has no other source of happiness and passion in her life. The other is the much talked about film by acclaimed Chilean director Pablo Larrain (Jackie). In Spencer, Larrain offers a sad and moving portrait of Princess Diana of Wales who has been suffering while remaining in a cold, loveless marriage to Prince Charles and under the strict, oppressive rules and disdainful scrutiny by the rest of the royal family.
Both films are exceptional in their own rights and feature incredible performances by their lead actors. In Spencer, Kristen Stewart delivers a phenomenal and transcendent turn as the much beloved Princess Diana and portrays her with grace, vulnerability and delicacy. It is so far the best performance I have seen by Stewart and by any female actor this year. Once again Pablo Larrain works his magic behind the camera and gives his audience a lovely and moving portrait about famous and iconic woman with a very human heart.
The movie takes place in 1991, ten years after Charles married Diana and made her the next in line to become Queen of England. Even though their marriage was originally portrayed and spun in the media as a fairy tale romance, things could not be any further from that in ’91. Under the ever watchful eyes of the royal family and forced to follow their strict rules and regulations, Diana feels like she is suffocating. To make matters worse, she knows that Charles (Jack Farthing) remains unfaithful to her by secretly seeing Camilla Parker Bowles, a woman he had previously dated decades ago.
Well, the Christmas Holidays have arived and once again, Diana must spend it at the official Royal Family’s festivities at the Queen’s Sandringham Estate. Wishing to put on a brave and happy face for her boys William(Jack Nielen) and Harry (Freddie Spry), the Princess very reluctantly agrees to swallow her pride, hide her pain and participate as it is expected of her. However, the longer she must endure the inflexible itinerary and the traditional rituals, Diana grows increasingly depressed, feeling trapped and imprisoned in what should be a happy and exciting life.
Written by Steven Knight, Pablo Larrain’s Spencer is a heart-rending portrait of Princess Diana that honors and celebrates the wonderful qualities that made her special. At the same time, the movie presents the more candid, behind-the-scenes facet of the woman who always had to present her public self as confident, graceful, and amiable. Knight’s writing mixed with Larrain’s adept direction allows the audience to see Diana not just as beautiful princess, but also as a real human woman with genuine emotions, needs, and desires for real passionate love.
The script serves the movie well, and could be easily adapted into an amazing stage play, as there is a limited amount of settings in the film. As a movie on the big screen, Spencer looks beautiful. From the makeup, hair, and costumes to the production design and sublime cinematography by Claire Mathon, it is an artistic feast for the eyes. Enhancing the visual experience along with the tone of the film and the emotions of the characters, Johnny Greenwood’s score delivers beautifully.
As far as the cast is concerned, everyone performs well, but this movie absolutely belongs to Kristen Stewart. Her stunning and moving turn as Diana Spencer, the Princess of Wales is definitely a career best for the actor and deserves much attention during awards season. Other noteworthy performs include Sean Harris, Sally Hawkins, Jack Nielen (Prince William), Freddie Spry (Prince Harry), and Timothy Spall.
Now, even though I didn’t find this film as extraordinary and amazing as Jackie, Pablo Larrain, nevertheless, has made another great movie with Spencer. Should the filmmaker decide to make another film about a famous woman in crisis, he could very well have himself an awesome trilogy. For now, Spencer will serve as a fine match for Jackie, should anyone would love to do a Larrain double feature. Because the cinematography and look of the movie is absolutely gorgeous, I strongly recommend that people go see this film in a theater while they have the chance. And I certainly expect to see Kristen Stewarts name in multiple, if not all, the acting award categories. She has truly come a long way from the Twilight movies and has proven herself as an exciting and incredible actor who deserves to keep working in cinema.