Spencer (Pablo Lorrain, 2021, UK/Germany/USA/Chile)

Spencer is Chilean auteur Pablo Lorrain's latest effort. Larrain has taken on a similar subject matter before, most notably in his 2016 film Jackie, about Jackie Onassis. Here the subject matter is Princess Diana, played by Kristen Stewart. Stewart's performance has generated a great amount of acclaim, even garnering an Academy Award nomination. Behind the pen on Spencer is Steven Knight, the veteran British screenwriter behind the series Peaky Blinders and many other films. While Locke has a very distinct writing style, here he seems to be complemented nicely by Lorrain's icy sense of detachment and coldness.

Rather than taking on the most controversial segments of Diana's life, the film focuses simply on one Christmas holiday in 1991. This is a wise decision, as the film does not play as a traditional biopic but more as a character study. The film takes place almost entirely in the Queen's Sandringham estate, which one other reviewer compared to the Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. This is an apt comparison, and there is certainly a Kubrickian iciness to the whole proceedings, enhanced by Claire Mathon's cinematography and Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead's unsettling score.

The film explores many aspects of Diana's personal life - bulimia, self-harm, and the infidelity of her husband. The latter is manifested in apparitions of Anne Boleyn, the wife of Henry VIII who was beheaded. Boleyn appears in apparitions several times throughout the film to Diana. The film culminates in a joyous scene of escape. The sense of suffocation throughout the film is real, and Timothy Spall and Sally Hawkins make great supporting roles the film. While some of the metaphors may seem heavy-handed, overall Spencer is a great exercise in mood and tone, anchored by a very good performance from Kristen Stewart. It is easy to understand why the film has so many accolades. 



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