The Queen (2006) Directed by Stephen Frears. With Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen, James Cromwell, Alex Jennings, Roger Allam and Sylvia Sims.
Focusing on the events that followed the death of Princess Diana, Stephen Frears’ The Queen offers an intriguing perspective on one of the most shocking events to have befallen the British monarchy in recent times.
In the title role, Helen Mirren’s performance perfectly captures the essence of Queen Elizabeth II. The authenticity of her performance is served well by the usage of actual news footage and interviews with prominent figures such as Princess Diana herself, her brother Earl Spencer and many other key individuals. Mirren’s portrayal is a favourable one, showing the Queen to have a sharp, wry sense of humour while never shying away from the difficulty of the relationship she had with the late Diana. Coming off not so well at times, and if there is a ‘boo-hiss’ character, then it would have to be the cantankerous Duke of Edinburgh as played by James Cromwell who seems to take a dim view of more or less everyone and everything.
In terms of performance, the film is a winner. As Prime Minister Tony Blair, Michael Sheen does a fine job of getting close enough, but not too close as to create a caricature. It’s a fine skill demonstrated by Sheen and one which he has repeated by subsequently playing football manager Brian Clough and journalist David Frost. His performance is a key element in the success of the film and adds to a well-dressed sense of overall authenticity.
Although some have noted a distinctly very televisual feel, the way in which Stephen Frears captures the restraint and simmering emotions of the royals is reflected in his unfussy direction. Indeed, there is the occasional feeling of watching a fly on the wall soap opera of the most famous family on the planet.
In truth, anyone who remembers 31st August 1997 would be forgiven for having more than a mild curiosity as to the in-house reaction. To its credit, the film never reaches in to show the devastation of Diana’s young children, keeping its lens firmly fixed on its stoical title character and those immediately surrounding her. I found it fascinating in terms of re-visiting the time and place. 4/5