Imagine that several centuries ago, a member of a country's royal family, known across the land, dies. Without the internet, television, telephones, or public transportation, how, and how soon, would the world proceed to mourn? Today, in a world where information travels in seconds, and when celebrities are modern-age mythological gods, is it possible for the people of the world to know one of these public figures better than their own family members know them? These questions are raised by THE QUEEN, featuring Helen Mirren in an Oscar-worthy performance as Elizabeth II, mother-in-law to Princess Diana. The princess' 1997 death brought an entire country to tears (my highschool self was all but obvlious to its impact) and came at a turning point in British government. The new Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) wants to modernize a government under the royal traditions still in place and protected closely by Elizabeth.
In great movie conflicts, both opposing forces are both right and wrong. Here, as Blair and Elizabeth are forced into hasty negotiations in response to Diana's death, they might as well be talking through a tin cans and string stretched between centuries. Thousands of hopeless citizens pile flowers at Buckingham Palace, demanding that the royal family acknowledge Diana, yet Elizabeth remains resolved to keep Diana's funeral a private, family affair. In one scene, Mirren's Queen waits in a creek between two nearby estates, her car stuck in the water. She is alone in nature, with an almost childlike unawareness of the modern world rushing by elsewhere. In her only visible moment of dispair, she spots a roaming stag whose hunter can be heard nearby. Kindly shooing him away, she is more in touch with this ignorant creature's mortality than she ever was to Diana.
THE QUEEN needs a more overt, slam-dunk ending; Elizabeth's realizations are ambiguous at best. But all the while my mind was flooded with insight and fascination for this crux in time-- a creek-- where turn-of-the-millenia progress clashed and compromised with tradition. Neither Blair, nor Elizabeth, nor the princess's people, were in the right or in the wrong, and time, by nature, didn't really allow them to figure it out. A-
at 9:00 PM