starring Helen Mirren, James Cromwell, Alex Jennings, Roger Allam, Sylvia Sims, Michael Sheen and Helen McCrory
written by Peter Morgan
directed by Stephen Frears
This is an excellent film and certainly well worth watching. It is about Queen Elizabeth’s reaction and her family’s response to the death of Diana, former Princess of Wales in a Paris car crash in August 1997. The film covers only a week of history, early in the premiership of Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair (recently retired, in the summer of this year).
In case you don’t know or don’t remember, let’s recap. The public shock and outpouring of grief in the U.K.was phenomenal, almost messianic, and the British public reacted badly to the apparent coldness of the Royal Family’s reaction. Firstly, the royals hated Diana (rightly so, in my opinion), and secondly, Queen Elizabeth was raised in a different age, one where one’s true feelings were kept private and life had more to do with virtues like duty. But in the modern media age, and in a democracy, people feel that true humanity lies in self-centered virtues like personal happiness, public self expression verging on celebrity, and a notion that all are deserving of privilege. The apparent disconnection between the Royal Family and the time and the public’s mood inflated republican sentiments, sentiments that were thought to represent a major threat to the continuation of the monarchy in the U.K., and sentiments that PM Tony Blair saved the Queen from by convincing her to show some degree of public remorse. That’s how it was.
Personally, I disliked Diana - a poster-child for the self-centered approach to life, and an unintelligent person, a person with no education, no job, completely inappropriate and even outrightly wrong ideas about her marriage to boot. I know that when she died I ought to have felt regret at the loss of a human life, of a child of God. But what I really felt, at least at first, was relief that her never ending melodrama was over. In the end she was not just insufferably annoying, but pretty boring, too. So you see whose side I am on.
Helen Mirren’s portrayal of the Queen feels very authentic. But who can say for sure? I enjoyed American James Cromwell as Prince Philip. Now there is an odd man indeed.