“Spencer” Deep Dives into the the Character of Princess Diana


Neon Topic Studios (Distribution Company)

A review on “Spencer”, a biopic about the late Princess Diana.

Gianna Cusumano, Staff Reporter

Behind the façade of Princess Diana’s public life is where the biopic “Spencer” begins its story. “Spencer” delivers a raw and authentic portrayal of Diana, brilliantly crafted script, and insightful use of visual symbolism. The film tells the tabloid tragedy audiences know, but fearlessly dives deep into the grim details of the beloved princess’ life. 

The film spans the course of three days as the British royal family gathers for Christmas at the Sandringham Estate, leaving Diana on the verge of a nervous breakdown as she deals with her pernicious marriage, struggle with mental health, and fight to break free from the chains of her duties as a member of the royal family. Pablo Larraín’s top-notch directing and Steven Knight’s screenwriting work together harmoniously to bring their interpretation of Princess Diana to life.

In addition to Larraín’s directing skill, “Spencer” features leading woman Kristen Stewart as the late Princess Diana Spencer. Stewart’s performance in the film earned her a first-ever Oscar nomination for Best Actress, and many critics regard it as the best performance of her career. The praise is rightfully deserved, as Stewart nails Diana’s speech patterns and mannerisms to a T. 

Knight’s focused writing throughout the film also helps to accentuate Stewart’s character. One strong suit of the film’s script is the way it builds upon its story. The script is rich with metaphors that are continuously woven into the film with messages coming full circle. 

One metaphor that greatly drives Diana’s character development forward is the comparison of how Diana is perceived by others as a pheasant. During the Christmas holiday, it is tradition for the royals to hunt pheasants for fun which upsets Diana. She describes how pheasants are thought to be “beautiful but not bright” which is why they are chosen to be shot. Diana ponders how she is also meant to look pretty to the public. This metaphor is referenced in the film’s second climax, which features a pheasant hunt while Diana makes a choice about the role the royals want her to play, and whether she will stay loyal to her duty. 

Beautiful storytelling is achieved not only by the writing in the film, but also in the cinematography and visual elements. One instance is in the snooker table scene between Diana and Prince Charles. In this scene, Charles and Diana get into an argument and the snooker balls are used to illustrate their different emotions as they stand on either side of the table. When Charles opens up more to Diana, the camera pans out past the perfect arrangement of red balls on the snooker table, and when he becomes more closed off, it pans back out, visually showing him letting his guard down and regaining it again.  

Watching the movie, it was the thoughtful storytelling in scenes like these that made me want to see more interactions between Diana and Charles, and take a closer look into their relationship. His affair and the pressure from his family on their marriage were important plot points of the film, and I think it would have benefitted the storyline to see more scenes between them. Additionally, the film’s focus on small, intimate conversations often results in slow pacing. 

With few flaws, “Spencer” is an impactful biopic that dissects the emotional complexities of a fascinating woman. Not only is “Spencer” an incredible film, but it also positively impacts Hollywood with LGBTQ+ representation and discussion of mental health. If you enjoy uncanny skill in performance, thoughtful character development, and an exploration of British royal history, I highly recommend you check out this movie.