This film has had a mixed response, it is true to say, but Kristen Stewart’s performance as Princess Diana has been widely hailed and she has a nomination for an Oscar Best Actress award. It takes place over a weekend when the marriage of Princess Diana and Prince Charles has long since grown cold. Though rumors of affairs and a divorce abound, peace is ordained for the Christmas festivities at the Queen’s Sandringham Estate. There’s eating and drinking, shooting and hunting. Diana knows the game. But this year, things will be profoundly different. Spencer is an imagining of what might have happened during those few fateful days.
It is a fictionalised imagining of real events, which feels important to stress these days, lest viewers assume that director Larraín and screenwriter Stephen Knight are crafting something akin to docudrama. Spencer, according to the press notes, is ‘an imagining of what might have happened during those few fateful days.’ In 2016, he directed Jackie, which similarly dramatised and fantasised the life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the days immediately following her husband’s assassination
Stewart has always been a performer unafraid to risk doing too little, so she was an unlikely but, it’s now clear, ingenious choice for the role; she’s going through such a period of pronounced anguish that the wrong kind of actor would have played the whole thing as overwrought, and ruined it. It’s one of those performances that amounts to an accumulation of the tiniest, most difficult moments, and when you put them all together a full picture becomes clear.
Larraín orchestrates the supporting players like a conductor, bringing in soloists for brief spotlight turns (Sally Hawkins and Sean Harris are especially good as keenly sympathetic support staff) before returning to the main theme. And he gets the look of the picture just right; he’s replicating the washed-out, overcast look of British films of the period (it looks like it could’ve been released by HandMade).
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Venue: William Loveless Hall