Spencer is a historical fiction psychological drama directed by Pablo Larraín and written by Steven Knight. The film is about Princess Diana’s existential crisis at Christmas because she wants to divorce Prince Charles and leave the British royal family. This version of Spencer doesn’t paint Princess Diana in a very good light but I found it to be an interesting film.
In December of 1991, the British royal family prepares to spend the Christmas holidays at the Queen’s Sandringham estate in Norfolk. Among the attendees is Diana (Kristen Stewart), Princess of Wales, whose marriage to Prince Charles (Jack Farthing) has become strained due to his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles (Emma Darwall-Smith). As the sizeable staff of Sandringham, led by the capable Major Alistair Gregory (Timothy Spall), prepare for the royals’ arrival, Diana drives around the Norfolk countryside. On the verge of a breakdown, she avoids heading to Sandringham until running into Royal Head Chef Darren McGrady (Sean Harris). She notes that the long-abandoned neighboring estate, Park House, used to be her childhood home.
Diana arrives to an apathetic reception on Christmas Eve. Her sons William (Jack Nielen) and Harry (Freddie Spry) are excited to see her, but she does not attempt to socialize with the royal family, who mostly ignore her. Diana’s only friend at the Estate is Royal Dresser Maggie (Sally Hawkins), who encourages her to at once combat the royal family and fulfill the obligations expected of her. Diana finds a book on Anne Boleyn in her assigned bedroom. She begins to have dreams about Boleyn (including a hallucination of her at a Christmas Eve dinner where she imagines herself destroying a pearl necklace given to her by Charles and eating the pearls in soup), eventually coming to believe that Boleyn’s ghost is haunting her in her capacity as a fellow abandoned royal wife. Diana tries to visit her childhood home but is stopped by royal guards, who initially mistake her for an intruder.
On Christmas Day, Diana attends the service at St Mary Magdalene Church, Sandringham, where she notices Camilla among the gathered crowd and is photographed by numerous intrusive journalists. She holds a difficult conversation with Charles, who rebuffs her concern over William and Harry’s participation in a pheasant shoot the next day and advises her to develop a stronger sense of separation between her public and private lives. Charles privately arranges for Maggie to be sent to London and spreads rumors that she had planted the Boleyn book in Diana’s room and made critical comments about her mental health; McGrady denies that she had done so when Diana questions him. Major Gregory attempts to encourage Diana to conform to the pressures of royal life by reminding her that the soldiers of the British Army die attempting to protect the interests of the Crown (by extension her interests); Diana responds by stating that she never asked anyone to die for her. After imagining wounding herself with a pair of wirecutters given to her by McGrady, Diana avoids the formal Christmas Day dinner, instead running to her childhood home and gaining access to it with the wire cutters. Memories of her happier girlhood overtake her, and she dances from room to room while imagining her younger self. She considers committing suicide by throwing herself down a flight of stairs, but the hallucination of Boleyn stops her. Instead, she rips apart her pearl necklace. On Boxing Day, Diana awakes in her room to find that Maggie has been called back from London. The two travel to a nearby beach, where Diana talks about her mental and marital problems.
Spencer is being called a semi-quasi fictional piece, I’m not sure if any of this really happened. There are some scenes that no one could possibly know about because Princess Diana was alone. She is painted as someone who is having a serious meltdown, bulimic, and as a person who is at her wit’s end. Her husband should forever be ashamed of himself for his actions. How does one who is having an affair attend church along with the person they are deceiving? I thought spencer was pretty dark and sad. All involved performed brilliantly. I felt like I took the journey with Diana. The entire film dealt with the Christmas gathering. Judging from what I see and hear, the royal family is quite the mess. As of 16 February 2022, Spencer has grossed $7.1 million in the United States and Canada, and $13.4 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $20.5 million. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 83% of 316 critics have given the film a positive review, with an average rating of 7.6/10. The website’s critics consensus reads: “Spencer can frustrate with its idiosyncratic depiction of its subject’s life, but Kristen Stewart’s finely modulated performance anchors the film’s flights of fancy.” Spencer is streaming on Hulu and Prime Video