Spencer (2021) Review-A Moving Character Study of Royalty

Smile For The Cameras – A Life Consumed By Presentation and Glamour.


Diana, Princess of Wales, who’s full name was Diana Frances Spencer, was known for her work in charity and being one of the most iconic figures in royalty, leading to the nickname “The Peoples’ Princess”. Despite her idolization, she had a very tragic and traumatic lifestyle that led to her death in an automobile accident in 1997. Despite her flaws and her messy relationship with Prince Charles, she continued her life after her divorce and worked with kids in art programs, AIDS patients, and everyday workers. What I know of Princess Diana is only surface level, and as I wish to learn more, I certainly will one day. All I know for now is that Kristen Stewart did a fantastic job capturing the feeling of being locked in a world consumed by presentation and looks, rather than a life of freedom and choice.

Spencer was released in theaters on November 5th, 2021. It was directed by 2016’s Jackie director Pablo Larrain, and written by Steven Knight, who wrote and directed Locke, the 2013 thriller starring Tom Hardy. The cinematography in this film was shot by the great Claire Mathon, who also did the cinematography for Celine Sciamma’s masterpiece Portrait of a Lady on Fire. The cinematography in this film is beautiful, and from the opening I could tell it would be one of my favorite aspects of this picture. On the other hand, the writing and directing was unfortunately nothing special. The dialogue felt a little dry but on the nose at times, and the directing was something to adore; however, it felt as if the cinematography mostly held it up. I say this because every performance outside Stewart’s was somewhat bland.

This film does indeed have a strong substance and I felt powerful emotions stir within myself while watching Spencer. The isolation, lack of freedom, and the yearning to be young again was portrayed very well through the atmosphere in the performance. From the montage edit with the pearl necklace to Princess Diana throwing up any meal she ate with her family, these were the moments where the film broke the barrier between artistic expression and emotional connection.

Admittedly, I find this film really difficult and quite draining to write about. Spencer wasn’t anything profound, in fact, outside the Oscar-nominated performance given by Kristen Stewart and the fantastic Sally Hawkins, who’s chemistry is the heart of the film, there’s not really anything special about the directing. I felt beyond the editing and cinematography, the directing handled by Pablo Larrain could’ve made this film even more powerful if it wasn’t as standard or plain as it was at times. With that being said, this film being anything beyond a standard piece of cinema doesn’t matter to me, which is why this film was so hard to write about, because Spencer is an exception to so many nitpicks i have. By the end of this film, which ends very abruptly after an out of tune scene with a very strange song choice, I felt a new sense of being- whether that was dread or happiness, it was a sense of being, nonetheless. I’m alive, and I’m capable of being free.

Spencer is a film that, although it is filled with a lot of flaws that feel amateurish and some dialogue that feels straight from some BBC show that was written by producers rather than a writer, captures a feeling, captures and portrays such a feeling of isolation and a wanting of being uncaged. Most biopics don’t reach this level of connectivity especially ones about royalty and leaders. Spencer is currently streaming on Hulu and is a special little film to come out of 2021, check it out.

8/10 – A Genuinely Powerful Film