2 out of 5 stars
Pablo Larraín has proven that he can direct biopics of influential historical figures with Jackie in 2016. His unique storytelling skills and visual style added to the magnificent performance of Natalie Portman. The Chilean director showed an exceptionally personal side of one of history's most famous and mysterious women. This made him an ideal choice to bring Princess Diana Spencer’s story to screens.
While Jackie Kennedy Onassis' story was based on actual accounts of her life after her husband's assassination, Spencer is a fictional telling of the British Royal Christmas in 1991. As the festivities are prepared with military precision, the family arrives at the Queen's Sandringham Estate in Norfolk. Traditions dictate the three-day event that ranges from weighing themselves upon arrival to the annual pheasant shoot on Boxing Day. Days that are meant to be a time of pomp and celebration, but for Diana (Kristin Stewart), the whole affair is unbearable to endure.
She has been part of the royal family for a decade and with various scandals in the news about her marriage to Prince Charles (Jack Farthing), things are far from enjoyable. As Diana and her children attempt to stay out of the press' telescopic lens, they make the most of their time with the extended family. All the while she struggles through various mental health issues and relies heavily on some of the trusted staff that have come to adore her over the years. Diana must determine to play the part that the family desires for her to portray in public or to find a means of breaking free from the anguish she endures within the castle walls.
Kristin Stewart shows that she is an actress worthy of this role, even though she is relegated to brooding through the mental anguish of her character. The actress does all she can to put her Twilight days behind her. This performance should be the one that many can point to that shows that she is worthy of future, substantial roles. (For fans of Kristin Stewart, Seberg stands out as one of her career-best performances. Review link below) Unfortunately, Stewart is left to wallow in forlorn writing based on conjecture and fabrication. Anyone going to see this film as insights into the beloved princess must be made aware of the fable-like nature of this screenplay. Some things are based on historical fact, while most of the narrative and many characters are fictional.
Like he did in Jackie, Pablo Larraín utilises his masterful eye when it comes to cinematography. He manages to convey the mood and prison-like atmosphere that his central character is experiencing. These stunning visuals help breathe life into Steven Knight’s (Dirty Pretty Things) script while doing nothing to make Diana’s story appealing. Even though it seems to be a bit of catharsis for the tormented royal on the surface. Until you realise that little of this Christmas tale has any basis in real life, then it becomes a mean-spirited attack on the Royal family. Regardless of the audience's opinion of the British monarchy, Spencer goes from being a credible biopic to a lesson in bad taste.
REEL DIALOGUE: We all want to go home
Why is humanity fascinated with getting ‘home?’ Throughout cinema, home seems to be the key destination for most lead characters. We are reminded repeatedly about the desire to get back to family and rediscover the place called home. Where solace and safety can be found in the same location is ingrained into mankind's core.
Interestingly, a family and a house cannot always provide for these needs. Thankfully the Bible does not leave us without answers to this drive to get home. A key theme in Christianity is the notion of a ‘homecoming.’ Still, what is understood is that ‘home’ is not merely found in a building or even in the bodies we have been given. These things are temporary reflections of something bigger and eternal. The ultimate home can only be found with God Himself and He is where things begin and end.
For those searching for their home in this life begin your search in the words of God who can direct you home.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1-2
Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. Psalm 127:1
Bible passages that talk about ‘home’: Psalm 90:1; John 14:2-6, 2 Corinthians 5:1-4, 6; 2 Peter 1:13