Helen Mirren, The QueenThis is a fictional / imaginative account of the week immediately following the death in 1997 of Diana, Princess of Wales. Watching it was a slightly strange experience, as the scenes (including authentic news footage) were both startlingly familiar and somewhat surreal.

The images of flowers heaped up outside Buckingham Palace, the speeches made, the bizarre outpouring of public sentiment were all very familiar, recalling that week with total clarity. Many of the fictional scenes also rang so true that they felt familiar – the ushering of newly elected Tony Blair into the Presence, the flippant irreverence of Blair’s assorted secretaries and aides, the fierce dignity of the Queen, the Royal family’s awkwardnesses. All this was beautifully captured.

Other scenes were clearly fictional and inserted mainly for wry comic effect rather than historic truth. For example, the Royal family all sitting around in their living room in the evenings – and in their dressing gowns on the night of Diana’s death – watching the television, made me think each time of The Royle Family. The Queen’s meeting with Cherie Blair on the occasion of Blair’s election is hilarious – they clearly detest one another. There are scenes of the domestic Blair, doing the washing up, having burned fishfingers dished up by Cherie for a family tea, and so on. It made me think of the way Blair would probably like us to think his private life runs, although I don’t think for a moment that it actually does. And there was the slightly embarassing moment when Blair blows up at Alistair Campbell with a seriously pro-Queen rant, in which we are clearly shown that, despite his accomplishments as a smooth political operator, there was still – as perhaps there has always been – a bit of genuine, unpolished idealism beneath the veneer.

This film is a respectful tribute to the Queen, unglamorous and humourous in a very British way, and it examined what was possibly the strangest week in British public life since I first started paying attention to the news. It deserves the many plaudits it has received: there was not a jarring moment.

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