Spencer plays like a Greek tragedy. Writer-director Pablo Larraín’s film is meticulously crafted from beginning to end. Actress Kristen Stewart is a marvel as Diana. She wows in every frame. With beautiful cinematography and a somber score, it’s a film full of symbolism. A masterclass. Five-stars.
A fable from a true tragedy.
Spencer is not your average movie-going experience, as Larraín (2012's No, 2016's Jackie, and 2021's Ema) throws the viewers into the mind of Diana, Princess of Wales (a phenomenal Stewart). Spencer is a fable based on real-life people, allowing Larraín the freedom to craft the picture the way he wanted to. During this biographical-psychological drama, we follow Diana's every move. She experiences three days of hell during the Christmas festivities at the Queen's Sandringham Estate. Larraín studies everything we know that the Princess went through and struggled with — loneliness, anxiety, depression, and an eating disorder. Larraín showcases the humanistic side of Diana, evaluating the importance of mental health. While actress Kristen Stewart has never been better. She nailed Diana's mannerisms down to a T, even exquisitely capturing her voice. Stewart gives off one of the very best performances of the year. A performance so good that it has Oscars written all over it. I know that The Academy will nominate her. But I also hope she wins Best Actress next year. We will see.
Alongside Stewart's cunning performance; is a jazzy score (composer Jonny Greenwood), luscious cinematography (Claire Mathon, who did 2019's Portrait of a Lady on Fire), and breathtaking production and costume designs (Guy Hendrix Dyas and Jacqueline Durran). With all of these elements blending together, Larraín has crafted a beautiful work of art; that is also both raw and deep. The film starts with the marriage of Princess Diana and Prince Charles in shambles. A divorce is around the corner through betrayal and rumors of affairs. Peace needs to be maintained during the Christmas festivities of eating, drinking, shooting, and hunting. Diana knows the drill, but will she abide by it this year? In Spencer, Larraín imagines what might have happened during those three fateful days (Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day). Actor Jack Farthing plays Charles, Prince of Wales. He's cold and cruel, just like the Prince himself. We also have some incredible supporting actors like Timothy Spall, Sean Harris, and Sally Hawkins filling the screen. Spall plays Equerry Major Alistair Gregory, a former military officer overseeing the weekend’s activities. Gregory also watches out for Diana. Spall's fictitious character was based on David Walker. Harris plays Darren McGrady, the Royal Head Chef, while Hawkins plays Maggie, Diana's Royal Dresser.
You can feel everyone in the background rooting for Diana to succeed that it pulls at your heartstrings. There's a scene where Diana plays a game with her two boys, William and Harry (Jack Nielen and Freddie Spry), that beautifully captures their bond. It's sweet, funny, and warm. We can see Diana's joy of being a mother break through her brokenness. It was my favorite scene from the whole film. Through this nightmarish tale, Spencer offers a glimpse into what Diana might have gone through, while it's also chock-full of metaphors. Larraín's drama gives off The Shining-esque vibes scene after scene, clawing its way underneath your skin. Spencer is a masterful film, creating tension and drama all on the backbone of Stewart's marvelous acting chops. She's the moment right now, and she shines from beginning to end. I was gobsmacked by this psychological feature. A picture that is humanizing but also incredibly humble to its main protagonist. Spencer never loses sight of her, always keeping her focused to the story's core. Spencer is one of the best movies of the year and one that has also stuck with me long after the credits ended. Go see it in theaters. Simply, a masterclass.
Spencer is rated R (Restricted) Some Language.
Directed by Pablo Larraín
Starring Kristen Stewart, Timothy Spall, Jack Farthing, Sean Harris, and Sally Hawkins.
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