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Jubilee Film Review: “The Queen”

1st June 2012

Tom Gooderson A’Court brings us a right royal review on the film ‘The Queen’ – an Oscar winner that doesn’t tick all his boxes. What did you think? Let us know on the Facebook page.

“2006’s Oscar winner The Queen focuses on the summer of 1997, during the week that Princess Diana died and looks at the relationship between new Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) and The Queen (Helen Mirren) as they and the nation come to terms with a tragedy which shook the Monarchy and the country. The prime focus of the film is the Queen’s public and personal reaction to the death and how her power and relationship with her Prime Minister works.

During the week of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and just a year after the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton the Monarchy is currently riding a wave of popular support but back in 1997 it was a very different story. The death of Diana and the subsequent lack of outward grief shown by the Queen and her family bought about the largest disapproval rating the Queen has ever suffered and was perhaps the most tumultuous time for the Royal Family since the Queen’s uncle abdicated in 1936. While the Queen stayed silent in Balmoral, the nation was in a state of mass hysteria and looked for someone to blame. Much of that blame was placed on the Queen.

The film cleverly intersperses real news and documentary footage into the dramatic narrative to give a sense of realism. This is yet heightened by the wonderful performances of both Helen Mirren and Michael Sheen. Sheen’s Blair is spot on and is a character he has played subsequently in the TV drama The Special Relationship and had played once before in director Stephen Frears’ television film The Deal. Mirren plays the Queen in a more personable and dare I say human way than the Queen we see on TV. This is the behind the scenes Monarch who is generally more at ease but still conforms to the protocol and demeanour that is expected of her. Some of the best scenes are those in which she is sat in Balmoral Castle watching television with her husband Philip (James Cromwell) and mother Elizabeth (Sylvia Syms). These are scenes which one does not picture when one thinks about the Royal family and provide greater insight as to their private lives. While it is true that they aren’t watching Deal or No Deal or The Only Way is Essex, to see them watching television somehow makes them feel more tangible and less alien.

For me the film is most successful at showing its audience behind the scenes of the Prime Minister’s and Queen’s lives. It is an area we rarely see and to me at least is fascinating. It interests me to understand and witness the protocol, despite how old fashioned or out of touch it may be. It’s interesting to see the inner workings of Number 10 and The Palace and to see how the two institutions interact and where the power really lies.

Overall I have to be honest and say that I didn’t think this was a brilliant film. Interesting though it was to see behind the scenes of the British establishment, the film felt very televisual and not really like a feature film. Its subject matter while will be of massive interest to some didn’t really interest me. I was eleven when Diana died and didn’t get the fuss about her death. While it is obviously sad that anyone should lose their life at such a young age, the public grief baffled me somewhat and still does to this day. With all that being said though the film does feature some tremendous performances by Sheen and Mirren and earned the latter an Oscar for which she was long overdue. It is also very interesting to me to see inside the institutions of British power and in that respect at least, the film is a success.”