I went to see the film ‘The Queen’ with mixed feelings. I have always had a rather proprietary feeling about her; like an elder sister although she is the elder. We had parallel lives – OK, so she was in a palace and I was in a council house but we were school girls in the war, got married, had babies and grew old together.
When I compare our lives and what we have done with them I am humbled and full of admiration. For sixty years she has put duty to her country before everything and been steadfast and courageous throughout. Thank God she married for love and has had the support of a strong, if at times irascible man – Prince Phillip.
She looks happier now than she has for years. Princess Margaret had always been a concern for her and it must have been so painful for her to see the sister who had always been the life and soul of any party reduced to the pathetic creature she became. The Queen Mother, for all her charm, was unbelievably extravagant and remained so to the end.
I met Helen Mirren when she was a young actress and even in those days it was clear
that when she was on stage the play was in safe hands. She had an assurance and maturity beyond her years and in this film she is faithful to the Queen and captured her essence. The film was as personal as looking back on one’s own cine films and one felt the grief again at the tragic death of Diana. It wasn’t – as some cynics said – an excuse for all the misfits to have a mutual cry- in but a universal sense of loss and sympathy for the two Princes. The film hinges around this event but it isn’t all sad and there are some amusing asides from both the Queen and Phillip.
There are clever touches like the olives in the Queen Mum’s drink, the old lace edged bed linen and the queen in mumsy slippers and cosy dressing gown hugging a hottie (hot water bottle). We are told she should be addressed as Ma’am to rhyme with ham – not charm. The non Royals are faithfully portrayed with the character of Cherie Blair representing the anti Royals who think HM is a waste of space.
There are a number of memorable moments such as when the Queen offers to place a little girl’s bunch of flowers on the sea of flowers for Diana and the little girl says ‘no’ abruptly and then says the flowers are ‘for you’. The restrained emotion on Helen’s face brings tears to the eyes. There is the dramatic ripple of applause after Charles Spencer’s (Diana’s brother) speech which was so riveting in real life.
My favourite moment is when the Queen in Balmoral is very stressed and takes off in four wheel drive to find the hunting party. Her staff offer to drive her as it means fording a river but typically she doesn’t want to bother them and gets stuck on the far side of the river. This is the last straw and she has a silent sob until something makes her look up and she sees a magnificent stag looking so beautiful in that glorious setting.
It is a heart-stopping moment and MTL and I disagreed about the symbolism. He said it was Diana hunted by the press as the stag was being hunted but to me the stag was her beloved father George, who had instilled in her the sense of purpose and duty and who many believe sacrificed his life for the country. The stag gave her the courage to go on.
Go and see it and make up your own mind. Just a few minor quibbles; Prince Phillip was the George Clooney de nos jours and the actor playing him captured the irascibility without the charm. (In real life this actor has protested to the Queen about the use of bear fur for Guards hats.) The script didn’t allow the Queen Mum to demonstrate her famous charm and the Queen’s walk wasn’t quite right – she does not stomp! I thoroughly enjoyed the film, the scenery and the music and would happily see it again.