An elderly Margaret Thatcher talks to the imagined presence of her recently deceased husband as she struggles to come to terms with his death while scenes from her past life, from girlhood to British prime minister, intervene.
Richard E. Grant
Diana the 'People's Princess' has died in a car accident in Paris. The Queen and her family decide that for the best, they should remain hidden behind the closed doors of Balmoral Castle. The heartbroken public do not understand and request that the Queen comforts her people. This also puts pressure on newly elected Tony Blair, who constantly tries to convince the monarchy to address the public. Written by
Several people in the film repeatedly refer to the practice of flying a flag at "half-mast" to honor someone recently deceased, in this case at Buckingham Palace. Although in the US the term used is "half-staff", in the UK it is correct to say "half-mast", whether the half-mast flag in question is on land or sea, according to the Flag Institute. See more »
After weeks of campaigning on the road, Tony Blair and his family finally strolled the few hundred yards to the polling station this election day morning. Amongst the Labour faithful up and down the country, there is an enormous sense of pride in Mr. Blair's achievements, and the confidence that he is about to become the youngest prime minister this century.
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Betty Windsor as we have never seen her before ...
There is no way of knowing, of course, just how authentic is Peter Morgan's very fine script for this account of what may or may not have taken place in the household of HRH during the days, chiefly between the death of Diana, Princess of Wales and her funeral, as it is unlikely that those involved would have blurted out to Morgan what they probably consider to be state secrets. No, Morgan's script is pure conjecture, a fiction about real events lent a considerable degree of seeming 'authenticity' by director Stephen Frears handling of the material and use of documentary footage mainly taken from the television programmes of the day. Should we condemn him, then, for guessing what conversations may have occurred in private between the Queen and her Prime Minister? Certainly not, anymore than we should condemn James Goldman for being fanciful as to what may or may not have occurred in the Court of Henry 11 and Eleanor of Aquitaine.
"The Queen", then, is not some purposeful account of the facts surrounding the death of Princess Diana as seen from the Royal, (and Prime Ministerial), perspective as a wonderfully human comedy hewn from a national and a private tragedy. And at it's heart, and what really makes it work, is a devastatingly accurate study, not simply of a Monarch we all feel we 'know' from endless television footage, but of a deeply private woman struggling to maintain her own personal dignity in the midst of immense public scrutiny, and Helen Mirren's performance is really quite extraordinary. She has the looks and the mannerisms off pat but more significantly she cuts to the quick of the private individual and unearths the human being inside the Queen. This is great acting which I have no doubt will be rewarded with every prize going come the year's end, (and anyone unfamiliar with Mirren's work who thinks, perhaps, that this is largely just a brilliant piece of mimicry should seek out her very different but equally brilliant performance on television as the present Queen's namesake Elizabeth 1).
The biggest glittering prize most likely to come Mirren's way is, of course, the Oscar and amid the ballyhoo surrounding her performance, Michael Sheen's brilliant turn as Tony Blair has been mostly overlooked. Sheen, too, gives an award-worthy turn as our present Prime Minister, again capturing, not just the look and the mannerisms, but also the arrogance that comes with youth and success and, more importantly, the humility that finally comes with understanding. Sheen gets closer to the 'real' Blair in those moments when he isn't saying anything at all.
Neither Alex Jennings nor James Cromwell look anything Princes Charles and Philip but they manage to capture the essence of the men. (Jennings is particularly good at getting that vacant look of Charles' that says to many people, 'Is there anyone at home?'). And there's a lovely, beautifully understated performance by Roger Allam as the Queen's Private Secretary.
Of course, it is almost as unlikely we will ever know what the people portrayed in the film think of it as it is we will ever know how close Mirren has come to 'getting it right' but I defy anyone to condemn the film on the grounds of either taste or accuracy. What matters isn't how real this film is, (it isn't a documentary, after all), but how closely those involved have come to capturing the hearts and minds of the people on the screen. Judged on this basis, "The Queen" is an unqualified triumph.
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