TIFF ’21: ‘Spencer’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Pablo Larraín’s Spencer is a slice of the Princess of Wales that we have never seen before. As the film begins, Larraín labels it a fable of a tragedy. We have seen many projects where they depict the Royal family in a certain way but we have never gotten a character study on one in particular. It isn’t necessarily slandering the family but it highlights the mental state of Princess Diana in a three-day span over Christmas. Diana reached a point where she needed some sort of normalcy, she had played the persona for too long, and now the cracks within her marriage began to show.

Larraín kept the central focus on Diana and Kristen Stewart gave an incredible performance. The intimate camerawork framed her in ways that made her look like Diana from afar. The haunting score by Jonny Greenwood accompanied her descent into realizing that she was stuck. The screenplay was also well-written by Steven Knight, as it kept circling back to the notion that she wanted to go home, back to being a ‘Spencer’, equating that to the freedom of her childhood. In a way, it does act as a ghost story, seeing that she was fighting with the shell of who she became and the girl she once was.

The cinematography by Claire Mathon worked with Diana’s mind. In certain scenes it almost felt like a dreamlike sequence, like Diana was in a daze. The broken pieces of her mind were projected into the frame through every single aspect. It is heartbreaking to watch a woman who is so loving and wants to give her children the same life she had, not be able to live the way she wants. The important takeaway from Spencer is that there were very emotional, playful, and sweet moments between Diana, William and Harry. Larraín wanted to show her as a woman first, a mother second, a wife third, and a member of the Royal family last.

Larraín’s work in Spencer presents a woman who is trapped in her own body, living someone else’s life. Her freedom is defying the guidelines put in place and reverting back to her childhood self. He also visually experimented a bit more in this film and it worked well because he showed many possible outcomes when attempting to take her own life without making it too graphic. Stewart and Larraín truly felt like a match made in heaven. She was in full control of Diana’s persona and the internal struggle she needed to present.

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