Driving through England’s green and pleasant land, Diana Spencer, as played by Kirsten Stewart is lost in more ways than one. Known to the world over as the Princess of Wales, Diana is now a stranger to the dynasty that she married into. With a Christmas pantomime ahead of her, with a family who openly despairs of her, how long can she keep up the charade until something finally snaps inside of her?
… this fictionalised scaffold of Diana’s divorce is unquestioningly an edifice to admire.
Well, in terms of a strict historical retelling of Princess Diana’s departure from the house of Windsor, this is something we’re never likely to know nor see. Yet, in the hands of director Pablo Larraín and screenwriter Steven Knight, Spencer neither makes any direct claim to do so either. Instead, their film is all about *feeling* and unlike 2013’s turgid Diana, this is a much better movie for it. In choosing to deliberately focus on the staff who are caught between either caring for Diana or just carrying on as normal, Kirsten Stewart’s invited interloper is deliberately left to ricochet inside an empty house. With only Sally Hawkin’s housemaid as her sole confidant, the film leaves Timothy Spall’s dour Equerry to singlehandedly say the most, by never saying anything at all.
Yet, as a piercing portrait of fragility, Kirsten Stewart’s performance says everything. From her doe-eyed, over-the-shoulder glances to her crisp English diction which splinters all of the etiquettes around her, this is an Oscar nomination, if not in the bag, then it’s certainly in the post. With arms permanently wrapped around her body as if in an ongoing act of self-consolation, Radiohead‘s Jonny Greenwood’s score completes this onscreen portrait. Offering Diana up as a breezy jazz trumpet forever looking break free, Greenwood then systemically drowns them both with low funereal dirges, as if it was deemed so as a matter of royal protocol.
With Diana arriving late to every scene, whether that be for sandwiches or shotguns, this becomes a film that doesn’t need a car crash to drive its point home. By assembling all of its main characters for duty amid a toxic Christmas celebration, Spencer instead becomes the clear fragments of a dream that was smashed upon arrival.
Forever by being the last one to the table and the first one on everybody else’s mind, this fictionalised scaffold of Diana’s divorce is unquestioningly an edifice to admire. Whilst no one will ever know what she had to endure, the real truth of Spencer is that Diana’s isolation is clearly one that many others had a hand in.