As we near the upcoming 20th anniversary of the tragic death of Princess Diana (and having just viewed the very well made Netflix’s Original Series The Crown), I decided to revisit 2006’s The Queen. While viewing it, I tried to do something I had not done while viewing the movie before: trying to judge every part of the movie without focusing entirely on the performance by Helen Mirren.
It was no easy task. Helen Mirren gives a powerhouse performance as Queen Elizabeth II, so much so that in the few moments she is not on-screen, her presence is still felt. When I first saw the film, I knew virtually nothing about the history of the Queen herself, only the event that was Princess Diana’s death (I was 10 when it happened).
The movie starts of with her majesty meeting her new Prime Minister, Tony Blair (Michael Sheen, who is stellar). It is clear that Blair is bringing in a new, youthful era to the country. When told that he wishes to be called by his first name instead of his title, the Queen asks, “Has anyone given him a protocol sheet?”
Fast forward to the tragic day at the end of August of 1997, when the Princess and her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, died in a car accident in a Paris tunnel. receiving the news, both the Queen and her husband, Prince Philip (an under appreciated James Cromwell) are stunned to find out that the Prime Minister is hoping for the royal family to make a statement. This is supported by Prince Charles (Alex Jennings), who in turn has to look out for his sons. It is a week that brings back many memories to people, as it is clear that the People’s Princess had touched all corners of the world.
The film has many scenes of quiet beauty: Simple walks in the palace, strolls with the Queen Mother (Sylvia Syms), talks on the phone, and (most of all) a very brief encounter with a stag. All scenes are played out with exquisite taste and care by director Stephen Frears.
Parents, the movie is a moderately gentle PG-13. There is no sex/nudity, just some swearing (one brief F-Bomb). There is also a little bit of gore revolved around hunting, show with a decapitated head of an animal. I would say middle school and up.
In the end, the movie belongs to Helen Mirren. When I first saw the movie, I knew little about the source material, yet I was still able to realize how dominate she was in the title role. It is one of the best performances an actor has given. You don’t see her acting at all during the movie. All you see is a woman who, despite her power, is still human. She still feels, still reacts, still makes hard decisions, and still manages to accept them.
Like the real life Queen Elizabeth II, this film is a surplus of dignity, power, and grace.
Overall: Four and a Half Stars ****1/2