Andrea’s Film Review – Spencer

Spencer ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Review by Andrea Carnevali

During her Christmas holidays with the royal family at the Sandringham estate in Norfolk, England, Diana Spencer, struggling with mental health problems, decides to end her decade-long marriage to Prince Charles. Opening in cinemas in November.

Your enjoyment, or simply liking of this film will probably depend on how much you’re willing to abandon what you already know about this story. In its defence the film itself starts off with a caption which tells you this is a “fable inspired by a real tragedy”, so it’s clearly not aiming at telling you the real facts.

In an age dominated by the sumptuous The Crown, dozens of documentaries about the Royal family and Diana (I am guilty of a few of them myself) and news about all of them on our TVs, phones, tablets and newspapers pretty much daily, you’ll be excused to wonder whether we actually needed this film at all.

Director Pablo Larraí had wowed me before with his portrayal of Jackie Kennedy, with the amazing Natalie Portman in the leading role. Here he seems to adopt the same techniques and style, including the choice of NOT telling the whole story but focusing on just a few days, in this case the three days around Christmas. But this time the result is a slightly mixed bag.

At the centre of it, a magnetic performance by Kristen Stewart, which is very powerful and might even win her an Oscar, but at times is on the edge of falling into mannerism and almost caricature.

I’m talking about those typical Diana poses with her face tilted to the side, looking up with her panda eyes, but I could see how they tried to shock us and give us a very different Diana from the one we were all expecting – for a start she’s pretty foul-mouthed: in fact her first lines, very intentionally, are “Where the f*** am I?”

As for the rest of the cast.. they are pure pantomime. Apparently it was a conscious decision because it’s all supposed to be from her point of view, but even so, they’re all very two-dimensional, which took me completely out of it and made her suffering a bit of a joke.

Maybe because I’ve worked on so many documentaries about this subject, I find the film a bit superficial and actually old news. However if you take the film as a portrait of a disturbed woman, who’s bulimic, alone, hurt, tormented and overall not quite well, then the film does a good job at conveying all that.

The best moments are probably the ones with her children which feel less staged, less fanciful and more natural (hence more powerful).

I suspect this is one of those films that’s going to be loved by critics, maybe less so by the British press, clearly more familiar with the subject matter, and hated by the public.

I’m right in the middle. On one hand I feel terribly irritated by the many cliches which fill up the film, but on the other I am almost mesmerised by the visuals and at times by Kristen’s performance.

However be aware, this is also bit slow and slightly repetitious at times… and by the way, the music drove me mad, which I guess was probably the point.

Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick.

Spencer is in cinemas in November.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: November Books – Reviews by Annakarin Klerfalk

See also: The Beauty Queen of Leenane at Lyric Hammersmith – review

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