Go see Pablo Larrain’s Spencer, which stars Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana, and the next day you will wonder: did I go to the cinema last night or did I have a cheese dream? Did she really clear the room of staff by saying she wished to masturbate, or was it the cheddar and crackers I foolishly had before bed? This is a total cheese dream of a film —did she really just eat a pearl? — but also it’s a riveting one as well as a thrillingly entertaining one. Plus it all somehow feels true even if it isn’t. Broken woman, unfeeling family. That seems about right.
With a super-smart script by Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things, Locke and, for television, Peaky Blinders), and directed by Larrain (Jackie), the film is set over three days at Sandringham in 1991 where the royal family have gathered to celebrate Christmas. It is billed as ‘a fable from a true tragedy’, whatever that might mean, and Diana’s marriage to Charles is irrevocably on the rocks but the family still imagine she can be brought to heel. She arrives late, having got lost in her little sports car. The Queen has already arrived and, if nothing else, you will get extraordinary pleasure just from seeing so many corgis tumble out of a Bentley. Diana receives a freezing reception, literally as well as metaphorically. The heating is never turned up here. You may have envied the royals’ lifestyle down the years, but remember this: a lot of their time is spent huddled under blankets.
The family want eyes on her at all times. Staff hover constantly, hence her need to sometimes clear the room.