That Was the Week That Was
They say you remember where you were and what you were doing when certain events happen and when it comes to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales I remember them very clearly. It was the first day of a holiday I was on with a then girlfriend and as we lay in bed we were shell shocked by the news which presented itself to us when we switched on the TV and Diana's death was on very channel. The thing is that whilst I remember that day and the eerie silence which presented us when we ventured out for a walk that day I remember little of events which followed that week other than on the day of the funeral a week later driving home and being amongst many cars who pulled over when the funeral was on.
It is because of having such little memory of the events of that week I watched "The Queen" both with a keen interest but also with a sense of not wanting to be reminded of those days. And it has to be said that "The Queen" is an impressive multi-layered movie which takes us behind the Royal doors to what might have gone on that week. I say might as whilst certain things are known about those times such as then prime minister Blair's wife Cherie being opposed to the monarchy the only people who know what really happened behind those closed doors are those who were there.
Now what we see in "The Queen" is the tale of two people; The Queen and the Royal family as a whole and then Tony Blair the recently elected Prime Minister. Whilst the Queen stuck to protocol and tradition it lead to what amounted to an outcry from the public over the apparent coldness and Royal silence whilst Tony Blair and his passionate speech about Diana lead to an early rise in his popularity. It is an interesting dramatization showing how the Queen had become removed from the public and the general feeling of the nation whilst Blair tapped into that but also found himself in the difficult situation of trying to show the Queen how times had changed and how the Royal silence could put the monarchy in jeopardy.
There is plenty I could say about "The Queen" and one thing is that it is a sad trip down memory lane to a very different time. But the most important thing is that it is a movie with layers of depth as it looks not only how the Royal family had become, unchanged over years and stuck in its ways thanks to protocol but we also see the way of the political world, with speech writers and advisors all working things behind the scenes. All of which brings the entertainment to the movie and makes it more than a dry dramatization of the horrendous week.
As such what "The Queen" also is is an actor's movie and it features sensitive performances from a cast who have a very difficult task of playing real people with the likes of James Cromwell and Sylvia Sims as well as Michael Sheen impressing. But this movie belongs to Helen Mirren as she delivers what I am sure will be the definitive study of the Queen. Mirren not only manages to get the look and mannerisms down but also gives us character depth, the conflict which she felt at the time as was locked in a world of tradition which had isolated her from the mood of her people. It is a performance which you need to watch to appreciate and to understand the depth of character which she remarkably creates but director Stephen Frears also deserves praise to allow for the depth to evolve and allow the audience to pass their own judgement on the times and the events.
What this all boils down to is that "The Queen" is an astonishing movie and by no means the stuffy movie it could so easily have become. But it is a movie which for all which is right about it is made excellent by an astonishing performance from Helen Mirren in what is the definitive portrayal of the Queen.