GildasGarden’s review published on Letterboxd:
I wanted to love this movie, I really did, but I came out disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, “Spencer” is well made; It isn’t bad, but I was left wanting more- especially from the script.
The symbolism was laid on so thick in this movie. In practically every scene, someone (often Diana herself) references her being a wounded martyr one mistake away from getting her head chopped off. While the references to Anne Boleyn start successful, they are repeated over and over and over again: in Diana’s lines, in the dialogue of other characters, and in so many of the shots. Rather than slowly painting a comparison, “Spencer” whacks you over the head with it; It feels very heavy handed.
Diana’s lines are soaked in cliche, making the real turmoil she suffered feel like melodramatic despair. I wish we had just one scene of Diana experiencing pure unadulterated joy. Maybe a flashback to the naive joy she felt in the early stages of her relationship with Charles? Anything to show us that she wasn’t always this miserable in the monarchy and in general. Anything to contrast the tone of desolation that looms over “Spencer” and Diana as a character.
The slow plot is not strong enough to make the film plot driven, but Diana as a character is not strong enough to make it successfully character driven. She is static, cycling through the same variations of sadness, numbness, self hatred, and the occasional bout of mania throughout the film. I actually liked Kristin Stewart in this though. Her accent work was consistent and it was nice to see her take on more complex work. The only real criticisms I have are that it looks like she is on the verge of tears in every scene (which is not interesting from an acting standpoint and doesn’t serve her), and that in almost every scene she is whispering. (I’m not sure if that was a sound thing or something the director told her to do but it’s unpleasant to listen to and also makes it harder to understand her with the accent) But other than those small things, most of my criticisms are for how Diana as a character was written.
In “Spencer” Diana feels…unlikeable. She’s careless and disrespectful toward most of the people around her, especially the staff (save her few favorites) who are just doing their jobs. While portraying Diana in a more gritty and real way instead of the sanitized Princess we often see makes sense for the tone of the film and the reality of her mental illness, she was just so unlikeable that it was hard to tell whether it was purposeful or not. It was almost confusing to watch her be so difficult to most people around her knowing that she was so utterly adored in real life. I understand that public figures may be very different in private, but in “Spencer” there was almost no hint of the warmth she exhibited in real life.
Overall, “Spencer” felt like it was written by a cinematographer. The shots were beautiful, but the story was weak. The optics felt most important, which was clearest to me when I watched three full minutes of Diana just spinning around in different dresses.
Prince Harry was the best part of the movie