The Monarchy, by Philip’s analysis, cannot be seen to capitulate to the emotional needs of the masses. Blair, on the other hand, insists that the Monarchy cannot ignore the people, who demand that Diana be acknowledged by the Crown. It is the old world versus the new, in this and many other respects.
The Queen is essentially an actor’s piece, the camera being a cold observer of characters in a situation that is quite extraordinary from a historical point of view. Frears manages to portray the royal household as that of any other upper class English family, with familial spats, inter-generational politics and the stiff upper-lipped daily contrivances that allow it to function. Philip, for example, takes the boys hunting to ‘get them out the house’ upon hearing of their mother’s death.
The film even reaches into the current political climate. The closing dialogue between Elizabeth and Blair sardonically prophesises Blair’s own disdain for the people’s opinion on The War on Terror issues.
Michael Sheen is sufficiently chipper and irritating as Tony Blair – a very accurate portrayal, then; and the rest all give the kind of classy, understated performances that we expect from a veteran British cast; especially the aforementioned Cromwell.
But the power of this film truly lies in Mirren’s incredibly complex and sympathetic performance. Elizabeth’s fragility is particularly tangible in the scene where she and Philip are looking at the flowers placed at the gate of the castle. Occasionally turning to look at the eerily silent crowd gathered there, there’s a wall between the Queen and her people. The film ultimately seeks to explain why this wall exists, and why it might have to.
It’s compelling viewing in the classic Britdrama style, with an actor’s award a shoo-in for Mirren.
- Anton Marshall
Helen Mirren gives the performance of her career in The Queen, a daring and compelling film about the British monarchy at the time of Lady Diana's death.
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