“Spencer” Review

“Spencer” inverts the standard biopic formula bolstered by a moving performance from Kristen Stewart


Available for streaming on Hulu, YouTube, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video and Google Play.

“Spencer,” released on Nov. 5, 2021, is the latest film to tackle the story of Diana, Princess of Wales. With a fresh approach to the celebrity biopic genre, Director Pablo Larraín chose not to tell the whole story of her life, instead giving a snapshot of one Christmas that Diana spends with the royal family. Without the burden of hitting real-life story beats, the film is able to go into detail about her character and relationships. The film’s success hinged on a great performance from Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana, and she delivered. Her portrayal of Diana is magnetic and grounded, making her easy to connect to and bringing emotional weight to the film.

The most noticeable thing about “Spencer” is the stunning visuals by cinematographer Claire Mathon. Filled with warm colors, “Spencer” balances beautiful, wide shots with claustrophobic close-ups. Each shot is like a meticulously arranged photograph. The vivid sound design brings each space to life, giving weight to each footstep and texture to every brush of clothing. It’s easy to forget that the film takes place in the not-so-distant past of the 1990s. Set almost entirely in an old royal mansion in the British Countryside, the film almost feels like a period piece until the characters visit a KFC. This timelessness seems entirely intentional—Princess Diana’s conflict between returning to the freedom of her childhood, the restrictions of her present life and her future as next in line to be the Queen, is a theme throughout the film.

At its core, “Spencer” is a film about mental illness and motherhood. Princess Diana is a loving mother for her children but she feels like she isn’t able to give them the attention that they deserve. Her struggle with eating disorders and hallucinations caused by the mounting pressure of her life gives the film its tension. Johnny Greenwood’s score perfectly elevates the drama and tension of the film, contrasting mournful orchestral strings with moody and nervous jazz.

“Spencer” is a powerful film whether or not you know the real story of Princess Diana. It is a unique take on the biopic genre and doesn’t get lost in the tragedy of its story.