Spencer takes place from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day 1991. Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart) is dreading spending Christmas with the royal family. Her marriage is in shambles and her children are the only people she is looking forward to spending time with. As she arrives at the palace, Diana feels as if she is being haunted.
I want to start out by saying this is not a typical biopic that I think most people are expecting. Honestly, there isn’t much plot in the film, but there is a lot of character development that delves into Diana’s psyche. As the film discloses at the beginning, Spencer is not a “true story” but is a “fable based on a true tragedy.” I have to admit I was a bit bored at times due to the lack of story, but the film always managed to suck me back in.
Diana feels completely under a microscope. She is trapped in a cage and has very limited freedom as a royal family member. There is policy and protocols for everything and the royals will judge you so harshly if you do not comply. There are fantastical and horror elements present in the film to highlight Diana’s thought process. It is clear that Diana is suffering physically, emotionally, and mentally by being around the royals and yet no one really does anything to help her. She is ostricized by them, but is expected to put on a happy face.
Princess Diana feels like she is being haunted by Anne Boleyn. Boleyn is one of King Henry VIII’s six wives and was beheaded by him. This is an apt parallel, but one that may have been too on the nose. I can see how Diana in the film feels like her demise would be due to the royals, but I do not think she felt as they were out to kill her. She may have felt that they were out to kill her freedom and personality, which is apparent both in this film and in the Netflix series, The Crown.
Kristen Stewart gives the best performance of her career as Diana. She gives a haunted and harrowing performance that puts Diana’s despair upfront. However, the film makes it clear that Diana was a wonderful mother and loved spending time with her children. Timothy Spall also gives off a unsettling performance as the Queen’s servant in charge of trying to keep Diana in place. Sally Hawkins and Sean Harris were also good in their small roles.
I really enjoyed Spencer, but I can understand why some would not due to the lack of story and lack of cohesion as well. The film puts Diana front and center, but it is obvious that certain aspects were exaggerated whether it be her transgressions or the reactions to her rule-breaking. I say that Spencer is worth checking it out if you value character more than plot or if you are interested in films about royals.
I give Spencer a B+