A Nation Mourns

by Alan Rapp on October 27, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: The Queen
  • IMDB: link

the-queen-posterAfter the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, a country mourns.  Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren) struggles with dealing with the personal loss of her family with the grieving country that wants solace and comfort from their sovereign.

The new Prime Minister, Tony Blair (Michael Sheen), tries to counsel the Queen to fight her nature and stoic resolve and allow the country to take part in the mourning of Diana’s death.

Stephen Frears gives us a behind the scenes looks at a power struggle between a modern man and a woman who’s refinement seems to be preventing her from what her country needs.  The film is shot in a way to allow real footage to be mixed into the film, including images and interviews with Diana herself.

Frears understands the delicacy of the issue involved and at no point does he try to trivialise or sensationalize the events.  He shows both a nation and family dealing with death in their own way.

The film also captures the odd fascination and connection people make to personas of public people, and asks who a funeral is for – the family of the person who really existed or the persona who so many cherished?

One of the problems with the film however is Diana herself.  Since, as a character, she never exists in the film she is simply a ghost.  She is discussed, minimally, over the course of the film, both as a shining beacon of hope to some, and a royal pain in the ass to others.

In his carefulness Frears has refrained from painting Diana, or focusing attention on her, other than her death.  The result is a film about a person who no one really knew.  The film doesn’t give us more information about her life, only the after-effects of her death.  Because of this, the film lacks an emotional punch or center which feels much like Mirren’s performance, very professionally done, but stoic and at arms-length.

Despite the Oscar-buzz surrounding Mirren, I was much more impressed with Michael Sheen’s performance as Tony Blair which is more layered and showcases a wider range of emotion.  Mirren might get the recognition here, but Sheen delivers the best performance of the film.

Given the director and subject matter I expected a moving and in-depth journey into these characters.  I got one of the two.  Despite the death and loss the film didn’t move me, and I felt in some ways, despite it’s wonderful performances and first-rate production values, it was a hollow shell.  In the end the film doesn’t tell us more than a good documentary on the subject would have, and so I wonder at its purpose.  Despite these reservations there is much recommend to you in The Queen, I guess I was just hoping for a little more.

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