COURTESY SPOILER ALERT
One of my rules for spoiler are that if a book or film is based on a historical event there is no spoiler. This is a courtesy spoiler alert if you don’t want your expectations of “Spencer” influenced by my opinion.
“Spencer” is the 2021 film about Diana (Spencer), Princess of Wales. The film takes place during Christmas season 1991. The film illustrates the burden Diana carried as the wife and mother of the future kings of England. The movie takes some patience but I enjoyed it overall.
Spencer was a bit slow moving in parts. It used symbolism which I don’t enjoy in books and movies. The musical score was also very dramatic and kind of loud. It was a symphony and it was overbearing in some scenes. The director was very artsy fartsy and indulgent at times. It made the story move like molasses.
You will be rewarded if you stick with it. The story comes together and begins to make sense midway through. “Spencer” is filmed like it’s a psychological thriller. The look is similar to that of “The Shining”, “Get Out” or even the “Friday the 13th Series”. It’s dark and hazy.
The film makes the claim that Diana was on the verge of or perhaps already having a nervous breakdown in late 1991. She had been in her royal position for over a decade. She was lonely and isolated. Diana was constantly surveilled and controlled.
At thirty years old all of her choices were made for her including where she lived and her clothes. She had little control over parenting her boys. Diana was treated well and respectfully but it was a matter of protocol. Everyone around her was loyal to tradition, patriotism and The Crown. There wasn’t much interest in Diana as a person.
Her only genuine interactions were with her sons. The scenes with the young mother and her two boys were charming and gave the film warmth. Her older son William was also loyal to royal protocol and tried to keep his mother on the straight and narrow. The boys were protective and seemed to see their mom as mentally fragile.
Diana’s relationship with her husband Charles was a matter of royal business. In one scene Charles justified his affair with Camilla by saying he needed two women because there were two of him; one public and one private. Charles was basically Diana’s boss and she was his employee.
The people around her including the queen played subtle psychological tricks on her. The queen made decisions to quietly let Diana know she was in charge and Diana was a political prisoner of sorts. Diana was the focus of intense media attention and she was not protected or sympathized with by her husband or anyone else except her sons. They were the only people who saw her humanity. It’s easy to believe that someone would lose their mind in that situation.
Kristen Stewart did a nice job as the princess. The casting was great and all the actors performed well. The 80s and 90s costumes were great. Diana was known for her short hairdo so the wig Kristen wore could have been better. It didn’t look bad but I could tell it was a wig. The stylist probably should have tried a weave cut into a short style so the hair would have more movement.
Overall, I recommend the movie despite it moving slowly in some parts. I don’t know if the movies claims are verifiable but they are believable. I like that the film maker was on Diana’s side and told her story.