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October 2006
The Queen

By Wilson Morales

The Queen

Distributor: Miramax Films
Director: Stephen Frears
Producers: Andy Harries, Christine Langan, Tracey Seaward
Screenwriter: Peter Morgan
Cinematographer: Affonso Beato
Composer: Alexandre Desplat
Starring: Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen, James Cromwell, Sylvia Syms, Alex Jennings, Roger Allam



With as many films that have been about past British monarchies, there have been relatively few about the present. We’ve seen films on King Henry V, Henry IV, King George, and most recently Queen Elizabeth 1, but we haven’t seen a film on Queen Elizabeth II. Granted the current Queen has held the throne for over 50 years, which makes it a bit difficult to make a film about her, let alone a fictional one, but Director Stephen Frears and Screenwriter Peter Morgan have put together an extraordinary docudrama on the Queen during a chapter in her life that was less than comforting. Playing “The Queen” with compassion and force, Helen Mirren is the heart and soul of the film that shed some light into the current monarchy and may enlighten those who want to get deep in her thoughts.

The film centers on really two events that occurred in Britain during the summer of 1997. As Tony Blair (Sheen) was elected to be the new Prime Minister, he carefully has to choose his words when meeting the Queen (Mirren) to get her approval of the people’s choice. At the same, the monarchy deals with the day-to-day reports of Princess Diana’s dalliance with her latest boyfriend, as the press seem to put her life in the papers and TV regularly. When Diana died in a car accident, everyone wept as word spread worldwide that the “People’s Princess” was gone for good. With pressure mounting the Queen as the public wants a response, the Queen doesn’t feel compelled to make such a statement considering that Diana was no longer a member of the family having divorced Prince Charles (Jennings). Therefore, with the exception of the HRH title granted to her during her divorce, Diana was acting more like a commoner than of royalty. Spending her summer at Balmoral in Scotland, The Queen and her family put some distance between herself and the people, also shielding the children from hearing more news about their mother’s death. With Blair’s inner circle seizing the opportunity, he comes across as the savior with a heart as he’s only one making statements for monarchy, but when he sees how the people are becoming disenchanted with the monarchy, he takes upon himself to plead the Queen for a change in attitude.

With Prince Charles indirectly egging him on to challenge his mother to do the right thing, Blair, with reluctant support from headstrong wife, makes the move to convince the Queen to show some sign of loss and help the people in their time of despair. The Queen, having learned and playing the rules of old standard, must adjust to modern times if she wishes to keep her family, reputation and monarchy in tact.

What “The Queen” gives is an insight into the mind of someone who didn’t adjust to change so easily, and Mirren’s performance is not only brilliant, but breathtaking. She shows many layers of someone the public rarely sees and understands. While a majority of her subjects may assume that because of her age (73), she’s lost touch with her people and thoughts, the film shows quite the contrary. Mirren shows that the Queen is a tough as nails leader who won’t let the press or her subjects dictate what she needs to do, especially when Diana, in her mind, wasn’t representing the monarchy, therefore wasn’t entitled to any of the normal processions due to a fallen royal. As Blair, Sheen on facial appearance, bares a striking resemblance to Tony Blair, and matches Mirren’s performance with intensity. Having played the role earlier in a TV drama called “The Deal”, he captures Blair’s support to help the people dealing with their loss. Not to play sides on either end, the film shows footage of Diana being adored by the public as well as the press, which was the cause of the death. It shows the toll the family has to deal with.

With the exception of James Cromwell’s one note performance as Prince Phillip, the rest of the cast are presented with multi-dimension characters, but it’s Mirren who holds the spotlight. We see the stress she feels as well as the coldness she bares when dealing with crisis. Not everyone can be hard as a rock, especially a Queen who’s held firm for over 50 years, yet “The Queen” shows a side of a person who, through some guidance, and can reinvent themselves and still hold command of her subjects.