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TIFF 2021: “Spencer”


Photo by Pablo Larraín

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Everyone wants to be wealthy, live in a palace and be part of a royal family. Indeed, there’s financial independence but it’s the freedom that is often lost. Because every move of the royal family members will be under scrutiny, highly publicized and photographed by paparazzi. So before you wish to become one, look back at the fate of Princess Diana or Grace Kelly, known as Grace of Monaco, and ask yourself, is there anyone willing to pay the ultimate price, to become free?

“Spencer” is one of the toughest films I’ve seen in a very long time. Prince Charles’ infidelity with Camilla Parker Bowles has become public. The whole world knows the truth. The image of the life of happily ever after has scumbled. Princess Diana arrived at Sandringham alone. She drives the car by herself. By the time she arrives, everybody expects her to follow the rules; eat at a specified time, change dresses according to occasions. Overall, she must obey, obey and obey the rules. But the free-spirited Diana does not want that and will break every rule she can, to not go insane.

Written and directed by Pablo Larrain, the film is more like an artist at work, trying to paint the life of Princess Diana during Christmas time, her relationship with two her sons, Harry and William, with her personal attendant (Sally Hawkins) and the Black Watch Officer (Timothy Spall), the man who intends to keep paparazzi away. The camera follows Lady Diana from the beginning, trying to capture all sorts of emotions she produces along the way. What we realize quickly is that the Princess wants to have an ordinary life under extraordinary circumstances. She does not want the entire planet to talk about her dress, not to mention the palace.

The most heartbreaking scene is the exchange with Prince Charles when Princess Diana was discussing Prince Charles’ habit of hunting or keeping her children away. Prince Charles admits that he does not like the process itself. But when Princess Diana asks why, her husband says, “Sometimes you have to force your body to do what you hate for the sake of the country,” implying more on the two’s intimate relationship, Prince Charles appeared to hate it so much, but did it for the sake of the country. Watching that scene alone will make you wish that this kind of exchange had never taken place in real life. Because if it did, that’s something awful to hear from a husband or wife.

“Spencer” is a surreal and beautifully shot film that you won’t even notice the passing time. There is a strange feeling you will have throughout. It’s, of course, a Kristen Stewart show who showcases her massive talent as an actress. Her channelling Princess Diana was raw and flawless. With her performance, Stewart can be guaranteed as a frontrunner for the Oscar. Not just because of her name, her stature, or her army of fans that can increase Oscar’s live broadcast. But because Stewart delivered the performance of a lifetime of a persona bigger than life. Did Stewart give some kind of justification to Princess Diana? We will never know. Most of us never met her in person to be able to judge. But she captured how humane, kind and an ordinary human being Princess Diana was. That is something Stewart did in the best way possible.

Lastly, another part that’s being touched in the film is the unique and loving chemistry Princess Diana shared with her two sons. The way they looked at her and admired her. They saw her as a rebellion, as someone who would think twice before breaking the palace’s rules. Someone who did not deserve her heart to be broken. But despite Princess Diana’s inner struggle, on the outside, she was a humble person who gave her children, as you can judge by the film, everything a mother could give within those short amount of screen time they got in “Spencer”.

As for the film, it will go down as one of the most authentic films ever done about the Princess of Wales. The colors, costumes, photography and settings – in every scene, in every frame you will smell an Oscar. The script is so detailed and vivid, luckily, Kristen Stewart did not take it for granted. As an actress, she grasped the concept and acted on it as a master of the craft. Because there is no actress who would do what Stewart did. Despite me always being sceptical of Stewart’s acting ability, I am happy to be proven wrong any day of the time with the magnitude of performance I have witnessed in “Spencer”.

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