Spencer

Spencer ★★★★

A claustrophobic chamber piece. A psychological horror. An unconventional haunted house tale. All things that you wouldn't expect from a film about Princess Diana but then we've come to expect the unexpected from a Pablo Larraín biopic.

Once again blurring the lines between fact and fiction, Larraín gets under your skin by breaking down our own perceived reality to show the hidden reality of his subject. Distant yet astonishingly intimate, he builds up a solid artifice only to knock it into a thousand shimmering fragments for us to piece together. It's not a difficult puzzle to solve, but it's full of sharp reflective edges.

The real beauty in this approach takes its purest form in his leads. Leads who find themselves free from the constraints of historical homogeneity. Kristen Stewart does a remarkable job of teetering between understated perfection and fleeting outbursts of overacting. But there's something in even the most unintentional shortcomings that makes it even more compelling. The cracks in her delivery almost mirroring the cracks in Diana's own royal performance. It's the role that Stewart has deserved her entire career. She was never going to let us down. This isn't Diana. This is Kristen's Diana. And the film is so much better for it.

This isn't to say I think Larraín's films are perfect. I never leave them with a feeling of completion. 'Masterpiece' never crosses my lips. Yet I can rarely pinpoint the flaws either. Instead, I find myself floating out the screen in an almost disassociative trance. Like someone has just pulled the hanging thread of reality, the world shrivelling and shrinking as everything turns inside out.

I am rarely a fan of biopics. I actively avoid them. I get irrationally annoyed when actors are nominated for impersonating historical figures. I'm not even sure I fully love Larraín's biopics either. Yet I'll be there every time he releases a new one. Because they are maddening. They are mundane. They are withdrawn. They are intimate. They are intoxicating. They are true to life, even when they're not.

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