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  • Writer's pictureSteve

Spencer (2021)

Having to gain three pounds over the Christmas holidays to prove you had a good time sounds easy enough, but not so simple if you're chucking up your turkey and trimmings. Even a wafer thin mint would seem like a request too far for this woman in the final throes of the custodial sentence of a marriage that she had definitely not signed up for.

Stewart made the sight of Diana throwing up actually believable. You can't so much as imagine the Queen taking a shit, but Stewart's portrayal was good enough to seem real in the very best sense of the word.

The question of paranoia in light of her bulimia is as plain as the nose on Timothy Spall's face. The argument going on in her own head is whether she is the victim of her potentially imagined machinations from other members of the family that she has, maybe naively, wandered into.

Although freedom was only a stone's throw away in reality, it may have been necessary to go though all of what we see here to get where she wanted to really be. Woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown may have been a label thrown at an 'ordinary' woman, but the media magnet that was Diana Spencer was never close to being ordinary. Not from the first moment her engagement to Charles became common knowledge.

We see into this Royal Christmas through a very specific lens. One of unadulterated partisanship on the behalf of the woman that no longer has a voice to defend herself. Seems only fair for the film to speak up for her when she can no longer do it herself, we are led to believe.

Her perhaps unnatural fixation with Anne Boleyn, the inconvenient wife of Henry VIII who refused to go as quietly as asked, so had her head conveniently separated from her shoulders was apparently not enough of a warning sign of the lengths that the Royal Family have traditionally been prepared to go to tow the party line and as always, display the Monarchy with all suitable regality.

It is difficult to call Stewart on her performance as there is no way of knowing for sure how unhinged or melodramatic, justified or otherwise, that Diana had become at this stage of her life, but the film is not backward in coming forward with the tragic elements of her existence at the time. It develops it exquisitely, almost to the extent that it feels like a guilty pleasure actually enjoying Stewarts unravelling performance.

In all, a delightfully wry and considered project with some outstanding performances. I'm not sure Stewart's performance is as good as many have claimed, leaning heavily on cliché on occasion, but still, this is as good as anything else you will witness from a leading actor this year.



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