I remember being twelve years old when Princess Dianna died. My family and I were out camping for the weekend and didn’t hear a thing about it until we got home. My mom was upset, she might have cried and said that if we hadn’t been out in the woods we would’ve known sooner, like we had missed a friend’s funeral. I didn’t understand what Dianna meant to my mom, all I knew was that there was a videotape labeled “Princess Dianna’s Wedding” on the shelf and we unwrapped a fresh tape to record her funeral.
First off, if this film had been renamed The Days Following Dianna’s Death millions more, like my mom, would have flocked to the theaters. But it’s not, because this film is about the Queen and therefore needs to reflect itself in her quiet dignity.
So yes, the film follows Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren) just after the death of Princess Dianna. Along with her are the rest of the Royal family and Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen). The Queen and Blair are at opposite opinions on how to deal with Dianna’s death. The Queen, being rationally old fashioned, sees that Dianna is no longer a member of the Royal family and thinks the memorial should be a private matter. However, more modern Blair recognizes how Dianna was loved the world over, thinks that a grand public funeral is necessary and promptly address the public. It seems that once he utters the words “People’s Princess” all of England is full of grief and flocks to Buckingham Palace to leave cards and flowers. The Queen is thrown by the people’s reaction. Soon, leaders from all over the world are expressing their condolences. The longer the Queen says nothing the more hostile her people become against her and the idea of a monarchy. She starts to question herself, if she doesn’t understand her people how can she be a good queen?
Helen Mirren plays Queen Elizabeth II and receives the Oscar for her grand performance. Mirren expertly lets the Queen be royal and human at the same time. She’s not warm or inviting because she wasn’t raised that way. She’s a real stickler for protocol, nearly stubborn. But when she hears the news, one of her first reactions is to protect her grandchildren. One of the main reasons they don’t return to Buckingham Palace is to keep the boys busy and distract them from their loss.
The film is expertly crafted. A mix of old news footage is spliced into the film at times and shows how the media really contributed to the life, death and memorial of Princess Dianna. The recreated moments before the fatal crash in Paris are spliced together with actual images taken of her by paparazzi. Segments of the mass memorial outside Buckingham Palace and speeches by world leaders are seen by the Queen and Blair, prompting their decisions.
This is a film I recommend to everyone, not just because it’s good, but because it’s an intimate snapshot of history. Most of us were there watching and grieving with the rest of the world, but we could have never imagined the perspective of the Queen.