Directed by Pablo Larrain

(2021, Shoebox Films/Komplizen Film/FilmNation Entertainment)

Picture this: Christmas with the family snuggled away in a secluded town with your own private chef, fireplaces galore, and all your outfits laid out for you. Lovely. 

That is unless you are Diana, the Princess of Wales, and you are with your husband, the Prince of Wales’ family castle at Sandringham in Norfolk for eight grueling days.

What is assuredly one of the most unique takes on the Diana story, Spencer (Diana’s maiden name), is not your typical drama. 

When the movie opens, we are introduced to Diana by way of her driving alone in her Porsche without anyone else including any security detail. She drives confidently, freely, and with purpose until she and the audience realize that she is lost. Diana being Diana, pulls into a local fish and chips place, casually strolling in to ask for directions while the diners and staff alike are in utter amazement of who just walked in.

That is the push and pull of the premise of Spencer as well as the push and pull of the real Diana’s struggle with trying to find her place within the royal family only to find that not only was there no place for a freethinker like Diana but even if there was, she had no real interest in it.

There are many opinions and advice columns about experiencing anxiousness when spending time with family over the holidays, but this film takes that anxiousness to new levels. 

Diana, who is happy to spend time with her sons, William, and Harry, feels absolutely strangled and restrained by the formality of the Christmas traditions at Sandringham all dictated by her mother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth. 

Diana desperately tries to find pockets of freedom whether it be in the bathroom, in the kitchen, in the pantry, and in the surrounding fields. The film is shot in such a way that it reminds one of the makings of a horror film conveying the tightening feeling Diana experiences with the viewer experiencing it right alongside with her.

Simply put: Kristen Stewart should win the Oscar for Best Actress for her portrayal of Diana. This was not just a performance of mimicry. Instead, Stewart encapsulated the sheer essence of Diana with every movement and line delivery. If this were a silent film, one could still pick up on every emotion Diana was feeling in every scene and that is due to Stewart’s absolute dedication to the role. 

As time has passed since the tragic death of Princess Diana, the public has learned of the many insults, atrocities, and immense pressures, the royal family, the press, and the public put upon her. That being said, there is nothing necessarily new to learn in this film by way of those stories but just more of them.

What is exhilarating to see here is Diana’s absolute dedication to her children even in the strictest of venues and her love for real connections with people.  Connections she often believed in, hoped for, tried to create without anything tangible to hold onto.

What director, Pablo Larrain has put together here is a fast-paced, claustrophobic view of Diana’s world some years into her being part of the royal family showing how she continuously struggled to do what she felt she had to for country only finding that she needed to what she should for herself.


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