Cast: Kristen Stewart, Jack Farthing, Sally Hawkins, Timothy Spall and Sean Harris
Directed by Pablo Larrain
Written by Steven Knight
Rising to mainstream prominence in 2016 with the release of his political biography concerning Jackie Kennedy, ‘Jackie’ put Pablo Larrain on the map as a promising filmmaker, and many were keen to see what else he had in him. Now returning to the same genre in which Larrain made a name for himself, ‘Spencer’ promises a deep exploration into the mind of Princess Diana over the course of three days in the early nineties, from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day. Though this time of year is seen as something to be celebrated by most, for Diana the idea of spending three days locked away with the Royal family, along with all the whispers and secrets they enjoy, is enough to invite in waves of anxiety.
When the title of any film is shared with the lead character’s name, it’s no surprise that all eyes will be on the actor who takes up the titular role. In this case, Kristen Stewart, known by some as the star of the ‘Twilight’ franchise, but to others as a more recent star of indie and arthouse cinema, ‘Spencer’ was an opportunity for Stewart to make a name for herself as a top flight actress. In this regard, there’s no denying her excellence. Disappearing into the role of Diana and emerging as a true personification of the royal, the actress ensures that even the smallest of motions – from the poised uncertainty of a head twitch, to the unsettlingly consistent shake in her voice – works to bring the prolific public figure to our attention once again.
Slowly developing into arguably one of the greatest musical talents working today, Jonny Greenwood takes up the role of composer for ‘Spencer’, and delivers one of the most anxious and detailed scores heard this year. Dealing frequently with scenes of heightened emotion, Greenwood was able to implement dissonant and anxiety-inducing compositions which perfectly match the tone of the scene, whilst ensuring that the presence of his music never overwhelms or distracts.
The cinematography from Claire Mathon delivers some incredible images, particularly prevalent in their ability to summarise the exact emotion of any scene. The way in which recurring symbolic themes are used to highlight certain ideas from the script such as authority, power and tradition, is both extremely captivating and thought-provoking, with many such notions only needing to be seen rather than heard. Lighting is also successfully used in this way, with frequent juxtaposition delivering further uncertainty, such as scenes of unflinching illumination being the ones in which both the audience and Diana herself wish to hide away the most.
Although Diana’s may be a familiar story to many, Pablo Larrains captures a very small moment in time and brings it to life as a pivotal series of events for the young royal. There may be some oddities and absurdities within it’s story, but ‘Spencer’ does a great job of delving into what made Diana who she was, as well as creating further excitement amongst audiences for what Pablo Larrain will do next.