Review | Kristen Stewart is perfection as Princess Diana in ‘Spencer’

Spencer | Dir: Pablo Larrain | ★ ★ ★ ★ 

When Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart) went to the compulsory family gathering that took place over Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day at Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, she had come a long way from the blushing virgin who married her prince ten years earlier.

Pablo Larrain, who captured Jackie Onassis’s grief after the assassination of her husband in Jackie O (2016), captures a defining moment in time for Princess Diana when the eyes of the world were on her. This is the last time she will attend the royal family event and she barely speaks to Charles (Jack Farthing) who has given the same gift of pearl necklaces to both her and his mistress Camilla Parker Bowles (Emma Darwall-Smith).

Ironically, Diana spent her early years at the house next door to the celebrations. Park House, which her father leased from the Royal Family, is located on the Sandringham Estate. When her father inherited the Earl of Spencer title, the family moved to Northamptonshire. In the film, the Spencer family home where Diana grew up is now in ruins (although it wasn’t at that time) and she is obsessed by it.

The film opens with the announcement that it is a fable from a true tragedy and the dilapidated house next door is more a representation of everything Diana has lost from her secure and loving childhood. Diana can’t go back to being the person she was, but she sees no way forward in the dark confines of royal life. Continually monitored and watched over by the household’s senior attendant (Timothy Spall) and with an unloving husband in the background, Diana sees parallels with Anne Boleyn who lost favour with King Henry VIII and was beheaded.

The film looks glorious and the recreations of Diana’s iconic dresses are sublime, but it doesn’t tell us anything more than has already been exhaustively covered by the media. It is Kristen Stewart who shines as the imprisoned princess who fights for some spontaneity and joy. Sneaking into see her two sons, William and Harry (Jack Neilen and Freddie Spry), at night allows her a sense of normality but even her sons can see she is suffering.

I watched the film with someone who said there were far too many close-up shots, but I enjoyed the camera trying to zoom in on the emotional turmoil of the deeply troubled Diana which Stewart captures to perfection.

Lezly Herbert

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