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Critics Review
Spencer review: Kristen Stewart opens curtains to dangerous freedom with her astounding performance as Diana

Pablo Larraín once again shows a hauntingly beautiful chapter of a woman’s life who was trapped in a gilded cage for years.

4.0
Aishwarya Vasudevan
Nov 18, 2021
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Story:

Princess Diana and Prince Charles' marriage has been dormant for a long time. Despite rumours of extramarital romances and divorce, the Christmas celebrations at the Queen's Sandringham Estate are set to be peaceful. There's shooting and hunting, as well as eating and drinking. Diana is well-versed in the game. This year, however, things will be very different. Spencer is a fictitious account of what might have occurred during those tragic days.

Review:

Princess Diana is imprisoned in the gilded cage of the royal family. The Crown viewers witnessed it in the fourth season of the series. But Spencer shows it in the most literal way. The film gives an elaborative peek into the three days of Christmas celebrations that the royal family spent at the Queen's Sandringham Estate. But like Diana, you too will feel claustrophobic by witnessing the breakdowns she has throughout the film.

Spencer is not an easy watch, and Kristen Stewart's efforts in making it one give the film the wings that Diana deserved. From the word go, you will feel a hollow in your heart while imagining what all has to be witnessed before she gets her short-lived freedom. It's Diana, the woman suffering from mental illness and a mother who loves her sons unconditionally, that Stewart portrays in the film.

When she makes an entry in the film, you don't expect fireworks because she didn't have any in her life. In the public eye, Diana was a hero, and she still is, but that wasn't good enough for her. If Stewart is in the frame, there's hardly anyone around her. The camera entirely focuses on her and zooms into her painful eyes. The woman behind the lens, Claire Mathon captures the flawless moments while Stewart engages in conversation with the camera.

For the public, it's been Diana since she entered the Royal Family, and similarly, it's been Stewart in Spencer since the moment she was introduced in the film.

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In a few sequences, the actor embodies the late icon, be it suffering from bulimia or even realising that her marriage with Prince Charles is long gone and only left as a title.

Thankfully, we see less of the royal family in the movie and very few of the conversations they have with Diana. The film is from her point of view and her suffering. In the process, it also gives a glimpse into the life of Anne Boleyn, the former Queen of England who was beheaded by her husband, Henry VIII, for treason.

Diana starts hallucinating that she might also face the same fate as Boleyn and was, of course, not up for it. The silences come screeching to the ears when she goes into her imagination of self-harming in every possible way.

There are a few sequences that are haunting and too difficult to watch. One of them would be the pearl necklace, which Diana breaks into the soup during the pre-Christmas dinner and eats with ire. The gazes she gets from the Royal Family are enough to make one feel embarrassed and disgusted with themselves. That's what she felt in those three days.

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It's also shown how every strand of her hair is controlled by the Royal Family. It just gets tiring and heartbreaking to witness how much a group of people can put shackles on a person.

Director Pablo Larraín, who earlier directed Jackie, based on Jacqueline Kennedy's life after John F. Kennedy's assassination, conveniently took a single chapter from Diana's short-lived, elaborated life. He showed the time between Diana's knowing there was a threat to her life and the freedom she achieved, which she strongly desired and fought hard for.

It has been embodied well by Stewart, who manages to pull off a British accent. How? The actor muttered in most of the sequences, while in others she hardly had any dialogue and it was just her body language that did the talking.

Stewart proved why she is an actor to watch out for and has finally got her due. She nails the elusive persona's head tilt, lowered gaze, gestures, soft-spoken royal and enigmatic demeanour, just living the reimagined life of what Diana must have done.

The sequences of self-harm, suicidal tendencies, and even bulimia are shown with a thrilling effect and will not let you blink your eyes, even for a moment. There are a few tear-jerking moments that are too difficult to describe in words.

Diana's life of finally getting rid of the life as Princess of Wales is something that many women desire. But only a few have the urge to fight and break the chains by which they are bound unreasonably.

She knew her freedom had come with a price, but a mother knows what is right for her kids and how she wishes to see them grow.

Steven Knight, who took the charge of penning the screenplay, just brought his vast imagination into paper very well, which transformed beautifully onscreen. Even though this is a fictional account, one will believe it and live with it after watching the film.

Spencer has more silent moments than words, which is the icing on the cake and the cherry on top. Silence is power, and Larraín helmed it just the way it should be.

Verdict:

Just nominate Kristen Stewart for all the coveted awards for her performance as Diana Spencer already. The actor is a revelation, and Spencer is the right film for it to be witnessed.


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