Set during a torturous family Christmas at Sandringham, Larraín and screenwriter Steven Knight (Locke, Eastern Promises) create a deft deconstruction of the pageantry of the royal household, where clothes and ceremony act like orchestrated masks for the family’s various personalities.
Using this as a backdrop to Diana’s delving back into her own past, confronting her own state of mind and looking to her future, Spencer creates the perfect atmosphere for an exacting character study.
As with Natalie Portman in Jackie, the film also features a stunning performance at its centre in Stewart (Personal Shopper), who is rightly tipped for awards for her unnerving, inhabitational embodiment of Diana as a woman losing her autonomy and, increasingly, her grasp on who she is and should be.
Also showcasing an array of memorable performances from the likes of Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), Sean Harris (The Green Knight), Timothy Spall (Mr Turner, Secrets & Lies) and Elizabeth Berrington (Last Night In Soho), Spencer is a swirling, emotive melodrama, which doesn’t require familiarity with its subject when weilding its unusual power.
A daring film executed with breath-taking cinematography, an immersive atmosphere bolstered by Jonny Greenwood’s inventive score and genuinely remarkable performances throughout; this is a bold and riveting imagining of what has become, for better or worse, part of the media-spun mythology of recent history.