The story of Diana, Princess of Wales is one that fascinated people since her tragic death in 1997. “Spencer,” starring Kristen Stewart as Diana, is an incredibly intimate and haunting look at the days leading up to Diana’s decision to divorce her husband, Prince Charles.
In many ways, “Spencer” feels like a sister film to director Pablo Larrain’s previous film “Jackie,” which focused on Jackie Kennedy dealing with the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy. Both films succeed at treating the woman at the center of their films with reverence and not telling their stories in an exploitative manner.
“Spencer” opens with the quote, “A fable from a true tragedy.” One thing that people should know about the film is that it isn’t a conventional biopic. “Spencer” doesn’t aim to be a retelling of every major point in Diana’s life. The film is more interested in being an introspective look at Diana, focusing on some of the issues affecting her, such as her struggles with bulimia, fame and her husband’s infidelity.
Despite the mostly somber tone, there are moments of levity in the film. One of the more touching aspects of the film is Diana’s relationship with her two young children. While the public, Prince Charles and the royal family all have expectations of how Diana should live her life, there is a purity and innocence to the relationship she has with her children.
One of the highlights of the film is Kristen Stewarts’ amazing performance as Diana. She not only nails the accent, but she also captures the despair and sorrow that Diana was feeling at this point in her life. Stewarts’ performance is a very nuanced and subtle one that never veers into impersonation territory.
“Spencer” is also one of the most beautifully shot and scored movies of the year. Cinematographer Claire Mathon gives the film a very dream-like, nostalgic look with a muted color palette that has occasional splashes of vibrant colors and with the use of 16mm cameras. The decision to have many close-ups on Kristen Stewart also captures the claustrophobia Diana was dealing with.
Another great aspect of the film is the musical score, which was done by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. The score is a mix of free form jazz and string orchestrations, which makes the film feel like a horror movie at times.
While there have been many documentaries, TV specials and articles dedicated to Princess Diana, “Spencer” offers a different perspective on the story. The film is an incredibly well-made and honest look into the life of Princess Diana.
Rating out of 5: 4.5