Why Spencer Is The Best Portrayal Of Princess Diana Yet, Film Companion

Stories about the British Royal family have always grabbed the public’s attention. So when an Academy Award winner like Pablo Larraín (“A Fantastic Woman”) decides to take up the portrayal of the most beloved royal of our times, it is sure to be a crowd puller. Spencer is not a biopic and never strives to be one, focusing instead on a handful of days in the life of Princess Diana and how a consistently negative and judgmental environment can break down the sanity and the sheer life force of even the most well-balanced individuals.

Kristen Stewart is riveting as the eponymous Diana ‘Spencer’ (her maiden name) aka the Princess of Wales. In the film, we catch her just after she discovers that her husband and crown Prince Charles is still madly in love with his former paramour Camilla. Hounded by a royal family hell-bent on sticking to their public image, Diana’s individuality and joie de vivre is continuously stifled by orderlies and maids, some of whom even pretend to be her friends, just to keep a watch!

Stewart delivers the best version of Princess Diana we have seen in cinema, superseding Naomi Watts in the disastrous Diana (2013) and dare I say, even the excellent Emma Corrin from the Netflix series, Crown. The Twilight trilogy’s ignominy has tided over the fact that she is a gifted actress for a long time, and hopefully Spencer acts as a turning point for her.

In a career-best performance after underappreciated films like Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) and Certain Women (2016), Stewart instantly draws us into the character’s vulnerability and desperation to hold on to her mental balance as her personal life falls apart. The spiralling cesspool that is the Royal family and their helplessness at Diana’s predicaments is portrayed in awe-inspiring detail, with the director even using historical allegories to smoothly get the message across.

Stella Gonet and Jack Farthing are intimidating and ooze menace in short but impactful performances as the Queen and Prince Charles respectively, communicating the utter disdain they had for Diana with just their eyes and body language. But it is Timothy Spall that shines among the supporting characters, with a fearsome portrayal of Alistair Gregory.

Sally Hawkins is predictably on point with her poignant take on Diana’s chambermaid, delivering her most impactful performance since the Oscar winner, Shape of Water (2017). Sean Harris breaks the villain mould that he was attributed with post the success of the Mission Impossible series, to play the Royal Head Chef, one of Diana’s few genuine confidantes.

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Director Pablo Larraín creates another impactful character study about a woman caught up in a world of media scrutiny, power and privilege she did not ask for, after the terrific Jackie (2016), a similar take on Jackie Kennedy, the beleaguered wife of the assassinated US President, John F Kennedy. Kristen Stewart’s performance, however, is more visceral and all-encompassing, therefore standing a notch above Natalie Portman’s role in Jackie.

Aided by exceptional writing and well-designed psychedelic sets and elevated by Kristen Stewart’s intense performance, Spencer is a must-watch. Catch it on Amazon Prime!

Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.

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