I'll be the first to admit, I was skeptical about seeing it. A movie about Queen Elizabeth and her response to Princess Diana's death? Excuse me, didn't we all watch it on the news? It isn't fiction, and it isn't ancient history or historical myth...so, how could it be very interesting? Well, one should never prejudge as I was reminded by finally seeing this marvelous film!
Yes, Diana was the "People's Princess," and we all loved her for her beauty, her moxy, her willingness to stand up to the establishment (of course, as the daughter of an hereditary Earl, she wasn't exactly from the "wrong side of the tracks" herself). We admired her for her work with people with AIDS and for her campaign against the use of landmines. We even admired her for seemingly being a very good mother. She wasn't just an aristocrat in the UK, she was the princess of our hearts, all over the world.
So, of course I was prepared to see the queen's character in "The Queen" as rather vilianous, cold, soulless, etc. But instead, I was reminded that most issues in life are complex and there is never just one side to any story.
"The Queen" shows Queen Elizabeth II as very human. A daughter who relies on her mother's counsel, a wife whose marriage has settled into a routine, oddly comfortable, but hardly passionate partnership, a mother whose stoicism may have prevented her from being as demonstrative with her children as she could have been, and a grandmother who is fiercely determined to protect her grandchildren.
"The Queen" also shows Elizabeth saying of Diana, "we liked her once," and it shows why she may have not liked her as much toward the end.
Queen Elizabeth is shown to be a survivor of World War 2 who lived in London as it was bombed and who served as a mechanic in the war effort, who became a young queen who would reign for more than half a century and who never forgot the scandal and heartache of her uncle's abdication or how deadly the royal occupation was for her father who never expected or prepared to be king. With a sense of duty, responsibility, and a vocation that requires strength and high resolve, once can imagine an aging sovereign who feels deeply but finds expressing those feelings inappropriate, even dangerous. And when all she worked to protect seemed threatened by her former daughter-in-law, one might understand her resentments.
Beyond the shaping of the Queen's personality by forces not of her making and the duty which was thrust upon her by accident of birth, we also see a thoughtful, caring person trying to protect a royal stag from her husband's hunting party, and quietly grieving when the stag is killed. We see a monarch who learns that her people's attitudes have changed, and who then summons the courage to offer them what they need, no matter how counter-intuitive those needs seem to her. A leader who listens, and who even when it is painful dares to make a change in direction is an effective leader indeed.
We still admire and miss Princess Diana, but there is another strong woman in the story that may deserve admiration as well: HM Queen Elizabeth II. Blending fact with conjecture, the film "The Queen" brilliantly shows a real person beneath the crown that has been passed in unbroken succession for more than 30 generations. After seeing the film, one is bound to realize that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth is also Elizabeth Windsor, Mrs. Phillip Mountbatten-Windsor, Daughter, Sister, Mum, Granny, Patriot, Matriarch, and more.
"The Queen" is not only a brilliant film, it is also an important one for helping us look into the soul of one of the most significant leaders of the 20th century, and now, the 21st.