We've just been to see Helen Mirren's wonderful portrait of " The Queen" in Stephen Frears film released a couple of weeks ago. It's a treat; we enjoyed every second.
The film tells what happened in the days after Princess Diana's death at the end of August 1997.
I imagine for many folk it's the same scenario, ie you clearly remember exactly WHERE you were when you heard the news. I was with my brother and family in Warwick; we were woken early by Tom, aged eleven, ( apparently he'd been watching TV since dawn, becoming desparate to pass on the news ) We then sat for an hour in our nighties ( some, I hasten to add, in pyjamas ) glued to TV, with no thought of breakfast, despite the fact my sister-in-law is one of the best cooks we know...
AND WHY is this film so special? Well, there's a stunning cast for a start. And Mirren is superb as Elizabeth . In fact, Peter Travers, in "Rolling Stone", calls her: " Acting Royalty". Too right she is; and she certainly warrants an Oscar for this.
The film opens at a portrait painting session; Mirren's mouth, eyes, her bearing, is pure Queen Elizabeth. She has Elizabeth's walk, her mannerisms, her reactions.
And as the film progresses, you see a strong lady with a vulnerable streak.
You see a woman steeped in traditions, who suddenly discovers (through the death of her erstwhile daughter-in-law) that her country has moved on.
You see a woman who is torn, uncertain how to approach this change ( she's told that 1 in 4 of her subjects think she should go).
You see a woman whose family is watched by the world, a family whose emotions and relationships are studied in detail.......but if it's stripped to its bones, its a family like any other, full of love, loyalty, conflict, difficulties.
One of the most striking scenes occurs a day or so after Diana's death.
The Queen is in turmoil at Balmoral, unsure whether to remain in Scotland or to take Blair's advice and return to London.
She drives alone into the Highlands, but is forced eventually to a halt after her car becomes stuck in a river. ( IF this sort of behaviour IS true of the Queen, the daredevil driving etc, then it really IS an eyeopener. )
However, in the mountains, Elizabeth meets a stag, probably one Philip stalked earlier, and she's mesmerised by its beauty. Once rescued, Elizabeth hears that a stag ( this one?) has been killed by the guest of a neighbouring lord. She is mortified and drives round to his Estate where she sees the dead animal , realising that it must have been wounded before its eventual death. And she's profoundly moved. But Elizabeth, being Elizabeth, remembers her place; on speaking to the lord's helpful gillie, she sends "congratulations " to the delighted Investment Banker who fired the shot.. And all this as she desparately questions her role in the monarchy, and the death of her daughter-in-law, who as so many were saying, was hunted, then wounded and driven to her own death..
The supporting cast were exceptional;Helen McCrory was a brilliant Cherie Blair. Her relationship with Tony was well drawn, both her strengths and personal ambition for Tony was obvious. Sylvia Simms played an excellent Queen Mother, with her grimaces, her asides, giving a believable portrait of her relationship with her daughter. Michael Sheen as Blair was stunning, from his first nervous meeting after his Election, when Elizabeth declared he was merely one of ten PM's she'd known (from Mrs T to Churchill, in tophat and frock coat) to the rise in his status, the gaining of his confidence...
A superb film. I particularly enjoyed too the music by the composer Andre Desplat; each piece seemed exactly right with its scene. Also the camera work...eg Diana and Dodie, driven from the Ritz to their deaths in the tunnel, were accompanied by a dramatic sequence of flashbacks of Diana's life....
I cant help but feel that Stephen Frears and his team deserve all the accolades going.