‘Spencer’ provides real, artful depiction of Princess Diana’s humanity


When the creation of “Spencer” was first announced, I was so excited. Especially since movie making has been a little slow since the start of the pandemic, a film about one of the most interesting and sought after women in the world was very intriguing and exciting, not to mention that Diana is a favorite person of mine. 

“Spencer” follows Diana, Princess of Wales (Kristen Stewart), in the final days of her tumultuous marriage with Prince Charles (Jack Farthing), the movie covering one of the last weekends they had spent together over Christmas vacation. Set at Sandringham, the Queen’s cold country estate in Norfolk, Diana endures the challenges of her worsening bulimia, the intense judgement of her family, and the great hurdles of her own mind.

Within the first ten minutes of the film, it’s clear the movie is much more impressionistic and artful than it is historical, though the core of the movie is largely based in truth. “Spencer” gives viewers an intimate portrayal of the princess’s mental and emotional state in the most confusing and darkest hours of her life, all from her perspective. Given this, the movie is obviously biased in nature and a little hyperbolic at times, just like the human mind. When Diana arrives at the estate, she is greeted by her practically estranged family members – the Queen (Stella Gonet) and the princess’s husband, Charles – who are portrayed seemingly inhuman at times, due to the fact that viewers see the movie through Diana’s troubled, neglected eyes.

One of the most prominent goals of the film was conveying the stark contrast between the unemotional nature of the royal family in Diana’s mind versus the relationships she had with others, like her children and her “help.” In regards to the scenes Diana shares with her boys, William and Harry, these moments are ultimately the first time we see Diana relaxed and free, giving viewers an idea of what her life looks like around the people she loves. One line that captures Diana’s essence as a mother and person is when William inquires about the prospect of her becoming queen one day, her simply responding, “I’ll be your mum. That’s my job.”

In terms of the sheer quality of the film, the attention to detail, symbolism, cinematography, score and acting was excellent. There is one scene in particular where all of these aspects of the film were artfully executed, when Diana is sitting down to dinner with the royal family, clearly feeling emotionally trapped and claustrophobic for the duration of the scene. Kristen Stewart’s acting in this scene is simply impeccable.

There is a dramatic escalation of Diana’s emotions during the dinner, with the hyperbole of Charles and the Queen’s apathetic natures being the most powerful in this scene. This scene, much like many others, highlights Diana’s paranoia and insecurity in the most real and poignant way. As the score crescendos, we see Diana at her mental breaking point, symbolically ripping off the pearls Charles had gotten her and leaving the dinner. As she runs through the halls of the large, lonely estate, tears streaming down her face, it’s clear to the audience how strong Diana’s paranoia and intense pain was at the time.

Another scene similar to this one in its larger than life and nuanced nature is a scene where Diana goes back to her childhood home, portraying nostalgia and longing for the freedom she had once felt as a child. This raw and emotional scene added both to the magic of the film and the intensity of Diana’s pain.

Spencer” ends on a relatively good note although it is lacking in closure, much like Diana’s life at the time. The film concludes with a heartwarming scene with Diana and her boys, the people she loved most in the world, driving away from Sandringham, away from her troubles and emotional strain. Though much of “Spencer” is sad and frankly hard to watch emotionally, there are several moments seeped into the film that represent what real life looks like: laughter, liberation, love and all.

Grade: A-