Spencer

Spencer ★★★★½

INOX Leisure Ltd.

Opening with a title card reading,

A FABLE FROM A TRUE TRAGEDY,”

Pablo Larraín’s film isn’t based on a wholly true event. Nor does it want to tell Diana’s life story. SPENCER is an act of psychological horror, a kind of ghost story, and a survivalist picture carried by an uncannily immersive Kristen Stewart, in one of the absolutely outstanding performances of her career which pulls together Diana’s lore and Larraín’s conception of her, creating a fleshed-out version of the princess that isn’t reliant on broad or showy instincts.

- I'll go back.

- We'll escort you.

- Why?

- There are photographers.

- Well, perhaps they just want to take photos of what's really going on.

Stewart folds in her body to actualize Diana’s nervousness, tips her head in a familiar way, and gets the princess’ voice pitch-perfect. But beyond that, her performance comes down to the eyes. Her eyes swing like switchblades through the grass, displaying either a kind of forlornness or a shyness, depending on the situation. It’s her eyes that jump her over the line of performance to a totally lived-in aura. There’s never a moment where it’s Kristen Stewart as Diana. She is Diana.

Jonny Greenwood’s score opens as classically British, then morphs into an unnerving symphony. Cinematographer Claire Mathon captures Diana with intrusive close-ups, her lens peering over the princess’ heart-rending facial expressions. Mathon also takes great interest in the disturbingly manicured features of the estate: the uniform garden, the exacting movements by the austere servants, and the meticulously prepared food and clothes. The film is also quite pretty and because I identify so well with some of the specific emotions being presented I would almost describe SPENCER as a cozy film for me. It lowered my diastolic blood pressure and made me feel settled in a way a lot great films don't. So that's why I like it just a little better than others seem to but I think the themes are least somewhat relatable to everyone. I'm sure most people have experienced some form of anxiety about social pressures and really have wanted to just escape and have the world leave them the f*** alone. I understand that and this movie understands that. SPENCER is an act of gracious humanity that grants Diana that which life never did: freedom, mercy, and an escape. In that sense, Larraín’s SPENCER, doesnʼt follow the familiar beats of her life, and isn’t the classic biopic audience are used to watching.

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