First off, let’s get it out of the way. Helen Mirren is outstanding. I’ve always been impressed with her ability to remain youthful as she ages, to maintain at least some element of sexiness in her age. Here though, she dispenses with all that and embodies a kind of inhuman stoicism you can only imagine coming from conservative royalty. Her inability to grieve or even consider the possibility of grieving is both maddening and impressive. Michael Sheen‘s Tony Blair is great too. In the end I think I found myself identifying with him the most. Caught up on the favorable side of a political battle, Blair remains true to his country and its best interests.
The film walks a fine line between a story about Diana’s death, and a story about the country’s reaction and the Queen’s stubborness. In the end, its the latter that strikes hardest, and this is how it should be. To make a film about Princess Diana dying, and the subsequent mourning and the, for lack of a better term, martyrdom of her image would be easy, and would bring tears, but wouldn’t have much else to offer. This goes much deeper than that. It discusses grief in all the ways it can be handled (or mishandled). More significantly, it deals with the politics of public image and even more than that, how an individual might handle this celebrity when it’s not desired, but thrust upon them. The idea of honor or dignity to your title taking precedent over your own personal feelings is something none of us will ever understand. Here though, even this concept is blurred to the point where you never really know what Elizabeth wants for herself. All in all, there’s depth to the character in a way that you can’t even necessarily figure out. Her dignity hides her feelings even from herself.
Here’s where the film and I started to part ways. There’s endless opportunity for emotion, for dramatic feeling that isn’t taken advantage of. Now granted, this is purposeful and I understand why they did it. Critical to the story is the idea of British dignity or more appropriately repression. So to maintain not only these feelings in the Queen’s character, but the film as well, they had to steer clear of an excess of visceral emotion. Ok, fine, I get it. Still, I like feeling something visceral in a movie. I like the heart vs. head balance. So I guess, it’s not as much a mistake on their part, as something I might have done differently.
In the end, I really enjoyed the film. It’s smart, and interesting, and has it’s moments of legitimate, real quality.