Directed by Stephen Frears
I sometimes get quite broody for a good old-fashioned Royal drama... And all these recent documentaries on Princess Diana's 20th Anniversary has made me quite keen on the famous family at the moment. So, stuck between a rock and the throne, I had to choose to rewatch either all 10 episodes of The Crown (a very viable option -- but simply lacking the time) or Stephen Frears' The Queen. I chose the latter.
Following the tragic death of Princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth faces the greatest challenge of her reign. Torn between wanting to protect her grandchildren and obliging a mourning public, the Queen is forced to realign her standards as monarch and readjust her perspective of her peoples, all the while dealing with a new government and Prime Minister.
The Queen has an interesting place in my film history -- it was one of my first "monarchist" films - it exposed my naive American, Queen-loving self to the political power play of one of the Queen's most defining moments - and Helen Mirren's performance is just bloody brilliant. When I think back to the first time I watched this film, I remember it being quite uneventful to me, almost bleak. But watching it back now (about 7 years later), I got a chill up my spine during just about every major event. Perhaps it's because I understand the context of the narrative better or perhaps it's because my appreciation for fine filmmaking has evolved, either way, a rewatch now has repositioned the film in my mind as a nuanced and delicate look at the humanity of one of the most important women in the world.
The combination of Peter Morgan and Stephen Frears is absolutely one of the best combinations of writers and directors for a highbrow biographical film on the Queen. You really can't get more highbrow than that (well, maybe add in Tom Hooper, then we'll be in for a real party). You won't get a better film/tv show/play about Queen Elizabeth than the ones from Peter Morgan. His understanding (or imagination, who really knows?) of the Queen is unparalleled to any other screenwriter out there. He wonderfully captures her sternness, stubbornness, and pride, but also her sensitivity and earnestness in her role as monarch. The Queen acts as a character study of the real monarch, questioning her motives and highlighting her willingness to let the peoples voices be heard. Stephen Frears plays his part and brings to life the beautiful, yet suffocating world the Royals. He effortlessly combines fictional narrative with archival footage to create a seamless transition between the story we know and the story we don't. These two styles and creative visions blend perfectly together, creating a gorgeous and enlightening film.
But the best bit about The Queen is the queen herself, Helen Mirren. She is so blooming good in this role that the real Queen Elizabeth might as well just retire and let Mirren take over the job. With the help of Morgan's fabulous insight, Mirren completely captures and exudes the aura of this powerful woman. She brings a charming sensitivity and lightness to the Queen that often isn't seen in her public persona, but also captures to a T the Queen's stern and unbending beliefs.
With a quality cast, production, and screenplay, The Queen finely captures the turbulence of one of the most sensitive weeks in modern British history and depicts the political power play needed to keep a nation from revolting.
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