‘Spencer’ movie review: An engaging alternative reality

Kristen Stewart creates a fragile and human Diana that goes beyond the glittering gowns and the blonde bangs

Updated - November 22, 2021 12:14 pm IST

Published - November 22, 2021 12:13 pm IST

This image released by Neon shows Kristen Stewart in a scene from "Spencer".

This image released by Neon shows Kristen Stewart in a scene from "Spencer".

Like Pablo Larraín’s Jackie (2016), which looks at Jacqueline Kennedy’s life in the week following her husband, President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Spencer looks at a crucial period in Lady Diana’s life.

It is Christmas 1991, which Lady Diana (Kristen Stewart) is spending with the royal family even as her marriage to Prince Charles (Jack Farthing) is unravelling. She seems close to a nervous breakdown with bulimia attacks and episodes of self-harm. From the beginning, where she deliberately arrives late to trying to entering her family home and picking a jacket off a scarecrow, Diana feels like a barely tolerated stranger in Sandringham, where the Royals are celebrating Christmas.

Apart from her sons, William (Jack Nielen) and Harry (Freddie Spry), the rest of the royal family, including Queen Elizabeth (Stella Gonet) and Prince Philip (Richard Sammel) are largely indifferent and cold towards her. Only the royal dresser, Maggie (Sally Hawkins) is kind and supportive.

The Equerry, Major Alistair Gregory (Timothy Spall) tries to tell Diana that she has to do her duty like the British soldiers who are willing to lay down their life for Queen and country, and by extension her. Diana tries to say that she does not want anyone to die for her.

Reading a book on Anne Boleyn, that she finds by her bed, Diana identifies with the doomed queen (Amy Manson) to the extent of having visions of her. Seeing Camilla Parker Bowles (Emma Darwall-Smith) with whom Charles has been having an affair, the famed third person in their marriage, does not help matters.

Acting awards should come in droves for Stewart’s performance as she creates a fragile and human Diana that goes beyond the glittering gowns and the blonde bangs. The rest of the cast are uniformly good, including Sean Harris as the Royal Head Chef, directing his troops to create culinary masterpieces. Incidentally, like Jackie , Spencer could well be in the running for awards for the lovely costumes.

Written by Steven Knight, Spencer creates an engaging alternative reality for a well-documented story.

Director: Pablo Larraín

Cast: Kristen Stewart, Timothy Spall, Jack Farthing, Sean Harris, Sally Hawkins

Storyline: In 1991, as Lady Diana gets ready to end her marriage to Prince Charles, she spends a fraught Christmas with the Royal family in Sandringham

Runtime: 111 minutes

(Spencer is currently running in theatres )

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