(Written by Freelancer, Eden Feldman)
From the film’s opening scene, Spencer tells the audience exactly what they are going to get: “a fable from a true tragedy.” No introductions need to be made here—this movie does not pander to its audience, but instead, brings us into the life of the struggling royal without ever touching upon the full history. This aspect of the film is what I enjoyed most. Rather than spoon-feeding the viewers, writer Steven Knight (Locked Down, Peaky Blinders) chooses to bring the audience in for a short snapshot of life as a quasi-outsider of the royal family.
The movie, directed by Pablo Larraín (the brilliant mind behind 2016’s Jackie), is filled with idyllic, panning scenes of the English countryside contrasted with intense, up-close shots of its main players. It is set up to be beautiful in its cinematography while also allowing us to see the consuming, raw emotions of the cast. Perhaps the best example of this portrayal is Kristen Stewart, representing a struggling and depressed Princess Diana. Although Stewart is a surprising choice for the role, she manages to embody the beloved and multifaceted princess beautifully. We get an intimate view of the princess’ misery at a time most people consider joyful—the Christmas holidays. She fully encapsulates her, both in looks and in her mannerisms, from her timid stare to her soft-spoken English.
There are running metaphors and heavy foreshadowing throughout Spencer. In one of the opening scenes, we get a close-up shot of a bird lying dead in the middle of the road, a possible nod to the late princess’ ultimate demise. Furthermore, all through the film, Diana is pushing to get back to her roots. She finds a scarecrow with her late father’s jacket and insists on mending it. She goes to visit her old house, now in complete shambles, in order to try and return to a semblance of the life she previously led. What I particularly enjoyed were the parallels between Diana and Anne Boleyn (Amy Manson), with Diana making a small reference to Camilla Parker-Bowles (Emma Darwall-Smith) as Jane Seymour, Anne’s successor. It was interesting to see how these two women’s lives, playing out hundreds of years apart, were actually not very different at all.
The film navigates Diana’s bifurcated life, weaving together the public’s perception whilst showing her inner struggle behind closed curtains. There is an especially poignant moment where Prince Charles (Jack Farthing) addresses the necessity of maintaining both a private and public persona. In fact, the entire royal household is shown to be against her, with the stoic and stern Timothy Spall playing Major Allistair Gregory, providing a great foil to Stewart’s Diana. Allistair tries to do everything in his power to get Diana to heel, and while she makes small concessions, ultimately, Diana is a rebel. She is consistently late to dinners, sneaks out between meals, and refuses to close her curtains despite being told multiple times that the paparazzi are taking photographs. She goes out of her way to not bow to the Crown, picking up many bumps and bruises, both emotional and physical, along the way.
Do not expect Spencer to teach you anything about Diana’s past; you are better off cracking open a history book or watching one of the many films or TV show adaptations in order to get the historical facts. Instead, take a seat at the dinner table alongside the royal family and experience the weight of being the seditious newcomer among a centuries-old monarchy.
Spencer curtsies its way into theaters nationwide Friday, November 5th.