One of the recent movie releases I’d particularly wanted to see was the critically acclaimed Stephen Frears film The Queen, which won two awards at this years Venice Film Festival. The film follows Stephen Frears acclaimed and controversial TV drama The Deal looking at the relationship between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and features Michael Sheen repeating his role as Blair.
Although in most cinemas the movie has slipped off the current listings we were lucky to spot a screen in Reading that was still showing the movie – although as an aside we realised quite how spoilt we have become with DVD, and our trips to digital cinema screens in London, as after more than a month of daily showings the print was really quite poor in places which was a shame.
The movie primarily covers the events of the first week of September in 1997, following on from the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in a car crash in Paris, although it also includes prologue and epilogue scenes set at the time of the election win by Blair in May 1997, and late October 1997. Unexpectedly though there wasn’t any explicit caption clarifying how factual or fictitious what is shown on the screen actually is. The official line is that it is a fiction, however the writer Peter Morgan apparently had access to a number of off-the-record sources on which to base the story. I have to say, whether fiction or not, in general the movie is very convincing.
There are points where perhaps the characters behave as parodies of the real people, but in general the characters seem like real people. Also, although there are moments of amusement in the film, the characters and events are dealt with well – important considering that the majority of the characters involved are still alive. Care had also been taken to ensure that main characters in the drama who are played by actors always appear as actors, so for example the newspapers and TV reports of the day are re-edited to include images of the actors, whilst those aspects where the real people are used, for example Diana herself and Earl Spencer, are cleverly interwoven.
Probably the best actor in the whole movie is Helen Mirren in the title role, who delivers a fantastic and utterly convincing performance. Whilst some of the other actors, although delivering good performances, never quite convince, by the end you’d be forgiven for forgetting that Helen Mirren isn’t actually the Queen herself. In reality, this is the whole reason the movie works, because Mirren is so compelling, and convincing in exploring what might have been going on behind closed doors during that week. Whilst we really know very little about our Queen as a person, we know enough to make what is shown during the movie utterly compelling and convincing.
Whilst it’s unlikely that you’ll find the movie on at the cinema for much longer, I can certainly recommend it when it invariably comes out on DVD and is shown on TV.