Pablo Larraín’s Jackie is a film I often think back to. Not to anything specific, and not with any great critical thought; I see an image of Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy, and I feel like that simple introspection captures the entire film. Safe to say, this is not a common sensation, but it is a profound one. It’s almost like he made a painting and filled it with all the tumultuous agony that occurred to Jackie in 1963; whatever way I look at it, it’s beautiful. Now he has a new muse, a figure even more tragic: Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart), or as she was known before and after her marriage Diana Spencer.
So, when I heard Larraín was making this picture, I knew at once that when I had seen it, I would have an enduring image of Kristen Stewart amid Diana’s tumultuous life, and I do. The specific tale Spencer tells is on the precipice of the Princess’ divorce from Prince Charles (Jack Farthing) on the grounds of Sandringham estate over the three days from Christmas Eve to Boxing day. A time when the mental demons which plagued Diana were at their most fierce. Of course, as the film says in so many words, this is only a fable formed from the true tragedy, so those looking for historical re-enactments should look elsewhere.
Instead, Spencer portrays Diana’s sheer anguish in full force as her husband engages in a not-so-secret affair. To display this, Sandringham becomes haunted by figures both real and imagined. In reality, the ever-present eyes and ears of Major Alistar Gregory (Timothy Spall) follow Diana in constant attempts to keep her in line with what the Royal family wants from her. And in her mind, most haunting of all is the figure of Anne Boleyn, the beheaded wife of Henry VIII. Each tortures Diana as she attempts to go about her days there, but sanity alludes her when she needs it most.
In truth, it almost became cruel to show Diana this way, to state that her reality became deranged to such levels. But there is one ultimate quality that proves Larraín’s intentions were tender and pure, and it’s the appearance of Diana’s two young sons, Princes William and Harry (Jack Nielen and Freddie Spry). There are scenes involving these two that will warm the coldest of hearts and working alongside them is when Stewart produces her finest work ever. It becomes a painfully beautiful reminder that Diana was at her core a loving mother, and in no way did she deserve the mess Charles put her through. I think that was a much better way to display such cruelty than explicitly depicting cheating.
As the tale goes on, we all know what’s coming, but Larraín isn’t concerned with that. Instead, he gives Diana a Swansong worthy of her elegance, and although we know it’s not truly the end, I think most will be touched by it regardless. And that’s the genius of Pablo Larrain, and why he is currently the best working director in the biopic genre, he knows the best ways to bend the truth, and he always does so for the sake of empathy, the nitty-gritty isn’t always necessary.
Spencer is a moving depiction of one of the world’s most beloved figures brought to life by the ever-talented Pablo Larraín and career-best work from Kristen Stewart.
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