Spencer ★★★★½

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During her Christmas holidays with the royal family at the Sandringham estate in Norfolk, England, Diana decides to leave her marriage to Prince Charles.

I have always liked Kristen Stewart, but I have never found her to be one of the “best in the business.” I always thought she showed a lot of potential, but it just felt like the performances we continued to get felt overly familiar each time. This is all to say I am more than happy to report that Spencer is that movie. This is the film I never knew I needed from Stewart, and she has finally delivered that top-notch performance. This is an Oscar-worthy outing from her, and my heart is filled with joy as I cement this performance as (easily) one of my favorites of the year. A lot of this comes from Larraín’s direction, as the film opts to bring us a more simplistic look into this period of Diana’s life. Instead of an extravagant and flashy story exploring a long period of time, the majority of the story is focused over a span of a few days in the life of Diana as she continues to struggle with her place in this family.

The raw emotions explored here are difficult to watch at times, but it feels like such an important and ultimately empowering film. Stewart embodies every aspect of this character, and while it is a different take, it is ultimately one that will go down as one of the best. The supporting cast is great as well, and her bond with her two boys is beautiful. These are the scenes that had me most emotional, as it is evident how much she loves her children and wants them to feel free. My only major character complaint is that of not giving us near enough of Stella Gonet’s Queen. I did not feel much from Gonet in the role, but I believe this is solely due to the lack of screen-time. There is an interesting relationship there that just isn’t given any time to flesh-out. I understand the decision not to explore this, but I could have used something.

Beyond the characters, it just isn’t a film that everyone is going to respond to because of that simplicity. The film brilliantly disguises itself with the simple premise to deliver a true character-study, filled with countless traumatic and emotional moments, but plenty of people will find it boring. I watched someone in my theater storm out after saying how this is the “worst movie ever.” First off, I was about to snap on this fool because he was being obnoxious, but I completely understand how it isn’t going to work for everyone. That being said, it locked me in with its style. It may take 20 minutes to get fully immersed, but I was completely locked in once everyone arrived at the Palace. The long takes of cars arriving include some phenomenal shot-selection and cinematography, but the scenes themselves become repetitive. Upon reflection, I understand the mentality of that type of buildup. The goal is to push the audience into that mental state and then allow Stewart’s powerhouse performance to sweep them off their feet. It becomes more and more brilliant after thinking about how or why these decisions are made. Spencer almost feels like a Horror film at times, and it goes beyond just being a standard Biopic. All of this makes it one of the better films of the year.

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