‘Spencer’ begins by describing itself as “a fable from a true story”. The two-hour film spans three days, following the royal family’s annual Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day at Sandringham- being Diana’s last one in 1991 before she and Charles officially split.
Director Pablo Larrain portrays Diana as a rule-breaker, someone who is suffering in silence, but first and foremost – a mother. The relationship between herself, William and Harry is captured in a touching way; viewers truly get a sense of the relationship the three of them had. However, there is a lack of plot and interaction with the other royals.
Those of you that have watched last year’s season of ‘The Crown’ will know that they do not shy away from placing blame on the royals, and although it is marked as a work of ‘fiction’, there is evidently a lot of truth to it. Contrastingly, in ‘Spencer’ Diana is portrayed to be partially trapped by her own mind.
Although Charles’ affair is briefly mentioned and hinted at, and he is seen to be cold towards Diana over her struggles with an eating disorder, the majority of the running time is Diana alone. The comparisons between her and Anne Boleyn are historically interesting, but the hallucinations of her seem to suggest that Diana was on the brink of madness.
Aside from this, the mental health depictions are accurate and perhaps make Diana seem more human. This opposes the obviously reserved royal family, which can be seen through Charles saying there are “two versions of himself”, implying that what the public sees is a façade. Larrain shows how Diana breaks through her façade, or indeed doesn’t have one at all, through her refusal of security and friendship with her chef, dresser, Darren, and Maggie. This added to Stewart’s brilliant portrayal of Diana and makes her a more relatable, almost in-reach character.
Stylistically, ‘Spencer’ is beautiful, with incredible long shots and fashion from Jacqueline Durran which draws on Diana’s best looks using vintage Chanel. The score adds to the drama and senses of entrapment, making viewing it a generally enjoyable experience. However, the use of only three days and heightened senses of madness with little dialogue put ‘Spencer’ as a film with incredible filmography and style, but a very little plot.
Words by: Madeleine Rousell
Edited by: Michele Ngue-Awane