There was a lot of anticipation as Colin and I entered the Dendy Opera Quays Cinema to see “The Queen”. Being a mostly middle-aged to older audience, we all happily stood in line, waiting for the previous screening to exit before we could enter. As the rope was dropped, we all walked quickly and politely into the cinema. But not everyone was so polite, as one woman jumped over the rope and refused to listen to the hapless attendant who unsuccessfully tried to remind her of the queue. It was like a rock concert and a mosh-pit, except I was the youngest by about twenty years. Still, I’d been anticipating the film for a fair while, and it was the only one of the “Boxing Day” films that I really wanted to see.
I find it hard to fully articulate the reasons why I wanted to see the film so much though, except to say I like bio-pics, I think the story of Diana’s death is fascinating, and I was confident with the assembled cast the movie would be told with both humour and sensitivity, and it was.
Like millions of others I’d watched the endless hours of rolling news coverage when news broke of Diana’s death. And like millions of others I’d watched Diana’s funeral, and shed a tear or two when funeral procession went past with the card simply entitled “mummy” was attached to a bunch of flowers. Even now, the outpouring of grief associated with Diana’s death – which the Royal Family in this film failed to understand – seems entirely natural, in stark contrast to some of the more recent displays of “public grief”.
Interestingly, it’s Prince Charles who comes closest of all members of the Royal Family to understanding the grief, relating it to the modern world, explaining how the Queen had grown up in a different time, and rationalising it by explaining to the Queen & The Duke that “the public didn’t know the Diana we did”. I still don’t know what to make of such favourable coverage of the Prince, nor that of Tony Blair.
The film is very funny and sometimes touching. For me, one of the most powerful moments was when, reluctantly, the Queen walks “amongst her people”. As the Queen walks past and observes phrases hand-written on cards such as “you were too good for them”, she is clearly shaken. But just for a moment, and moving on, she makes contact with “her people” and you sense that although the public was pissed off with the Queen for remaining at Balmoral during that time, they were fairly quick to forgive.
Being on the other side of the world, and with no recently family connection to the UK, I suppose I’ll never really understand fascination the English have with the Royal Family. I can, however, appreciate a good story, and “The Queen” is just that, a really good story, told and acted well.