Spencer

Spencer ★★★★★

First of all, how is this only a 12?

In Spencer, Pablo Lorrain has crafted one of this year's very best films. His direction here is so frank, it is such an intimate portrayal of Lady Diana and the camera is used to give extreme close ups which often feel too close, too intrusive. As if we are invading her personal space which, of course, is exactly as Diana is feeling in the film. There's one shot in particular, outside the church wherein Diana is the only spec of colour in a sea of browns. This mirrors the role she has for herself in this family as the one outlier, the one rebel against tradition.

Kristen Stewart is utterly mesmerising in a career best turn in the lead role. She nails the accent and hits the vulnerability just perfectly. In the supporting cast, Timothy Spall is all seeing and slightly menacing but reasonable. The two young princes are excellent. But it's Sally Hawkins' Maggie who is most influential. There is a moment with these two characters where something is said and in that moment I felt convinced that the film would go down a certain path which filled me, to some extent, with dread but to my immense relief and surprise it didn't, instead opting to turn that moment into a beautifully heartwarming moment of true friendship and respect.

As alluded to previously the two young princes are excellent, they provide what is the main emotional through line of the film, showing Diana as a mother primarily and the chemistry between the three actors is so pure and delightful.

The film has parallels, to some extent, to Todd Phillips' Joker. Both being about characters who are isolated and feeling abondoned by those around them and depicting how different characters deal with mental health and that abandonment. Obviously they take very different paths but even in the way some of the scenes are constructed, those similarities are clear. In particular there is a montage in the third act which just screamed "Joker" to me. Johnny Greenwood's superb music gave so much more weight and impact to the increasingly fragile mental state of Diana as well as emphasising the contrast between what is supposed to be going on in the setting of a royal Christmas and what Diana is infact going through.

The figure of Anne Boleyn is introduced in the film, as a comparison to Diana and an allusion to her potential fate. But really what this means is more a representation of Diana's greatest fears, which, in a stunning scene in her childhood home, she overcomes.

The film impressed me by its restraint in not taking the film down the darkest path possible. Rather than focusing on the tragedy of her death, it focuses on the tragedy of her life. Her despair at being trapped in a way of life to which she does not feel fondly but how she clings on to the things that keep her going, her sons and the few decent people she encounters who actually seem to have her best interests at heart. What an absolutely wonderful film, it prompted me to write more than just the usual few sentences for the first time in such a long time so you know it's good and I think this truly reignited my passion for cinema. I cannot wait till it comes out and I can watch it again.
2021

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