Spencer ★★★★★

“A fable based on a true tragedy”

Similar to JACKIE (2016), Pablo Larraín’s newest film, SPENCER, takes you through a pivotal weekend in Princess Diana’s life: the end of her marriage to Prince Charles. Throughout these events, the audience is taken through fabled glimpses of her eating disorder and paranoia, as well as her sillier, lighthearted, maternal side.

What makes this particular telling of Diana different than the rest is the way the topic is approached. Instead of simultaneously focusing on her and the infamous family that surrounds Diana, similar to what we saw in the most recent season of THE CROWN, they’re mostly background figures who utter no more than a handful of sentences. We get a sense of the environment she married into: the strict rules, the large catering team (led by Sean Harris) ordered to prepare quietly below the living quarters, the women who dress individual family members (Sally Hawkins), and the watchdogs (Timothy Spall) hired to keep everything, especially Diana, in check.

Kristen Stewart is in top form in this role; despite the criticisms, comparisons, and social media lashing she received when the project was initially announced, she shines in ways that exceed all expectations. Nailing Princess Diana’s mannerisms and accent, Stewart does an incredible job reviving her commanding presence. In times of despair, the pain is written all over her face, expressions breaking your heart with every lingering shot. In one particular scene, following the realization she and Camilla received the same pearls from Prince Charles, combined with dirty looks from around the table, we visually witness her internal panic in front of a plate of soup. Not only is it a very realistic depiction of an attack, but it’s also a strong showcase of Stewart’s range.

Claire Mathon’s work in this is unsurprisingly fantastic. Similar to PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE, this film is full of visual poetry, wherein its quieter moments, images tend to speak louder than words. Throughout the film, and especially during tense scenes, she holds on Stewart’s face, forcing the audience to feel what she’s feeling in every way possible. Jonny Greenwood's score, which I believe is his magnum opus, takes tones and instruments used in PHANTOM THREAD, THERE WILL BE BLOOD, and THE MASTER, respectively, creating a haunting and stressful score. It perfectly pairs with the anxiety and paranoia felt by Stewart’s Diana, similar to how Mica Levi’s score paired perfectly with the heaviness and grief in Larraín’s previous film, JACKIE.

I fell in love with this from the first, crisp, landscape shot. While everyone who knows me knows my love for the masterpiece that is JACKIE, this blew my mind tenfold and emotionally split me in two. From the gorgeous cinematography to the score that lives in my head rent-free, to the incredible tour-de-force from Kristen Stewart, it’s fascinating to again see Pablo Larraín tackle a public figure in such an intimate, unconventional way. I hope everyone can see this in a theater and experience the same magic as I did because boy, is it something.

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