Spencer Film Review

Published in Movies and TV News  
'Spencer' 'Spencer'

Kristen Stewart's Princess Diana is stirring, arresting, and gripping.


'Spencer' follows Diana as she travels to the Queen's Sandringham Estate for Christmas in 1991, in the wake of the affair between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles.

Above everything else, 'Spencer' is a character study of an emotionally fractured Diana, a Diana inches from breaking the chains she has dragged alongside her. It's a three-day snapshot of a moment in time. Long, slow tracking shots literally follow the Princess's every move as she makes her way about the estate, and the music (from Jonny Greenwood) rattles and hums along with her movements.

Sometimes, the spine-tingling score mimics the sounds of a band warming up, each instrument existing in its own world and unaware of its companions, making for some truly unsettling scenes – in the best way.

Kristen Stewart can't fully escape looking like Kristen Stewart, but the simplicity of her physical transformation into Diana is perhaps what is most impressive about her portrayal – a blonde wig and some signature Diana fashion is all it takes for you to believe it's Diana you're seeing here – no facial prosthetics or costume-y makeup necessary. Of course, there's more to playing the role than one's appearance, and Diana's mannerisms and tone of voice are iconic.



Luckily, Kristen excels in both areas. It's a moving performance, and she manages to be convincing enough in both the calm, collected woman seen by the public, as well as the slightly manic, hallucinating Diana seen in this film, a woman with an edge to her that feels unpredictable.

Other stand-out performances include Sally Hawkins as the Royal Dresser, Maggie – a warm comfort to witness each time she appears on screen – and Timothy Spall as Equerry Major Alistair Gregory – beautifully underplaying his concern for the Princess as he watches her over the three days.

The 16mm/35mm film on which 'Spencer' is shot captures the essence of the era – each scene is tinged with mist and slightly muted in colour. Most effective here are the shots of the grounds of Sandringham Estate – truly breathtaking. This is attention to detail which makes a difference in the experience as a viewer, and something that adds flavour and a sense of realism to the final product.

From the performances, to the set pieces, to the fashion, to the beautiful decisions in cinematography, 'Spencer' is a work of art made up of a series of moving, delicate vignettes. Kristen Stewart's performance proves – especially to those who might not be familiar with her work outside of just 'Twilight' – that she's got something really special, and is only just getting started.

★★★★☆ ½.

'Spencer' is in cinemas 20 January.

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