Spencer ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

"A fable from a true tragedy" - Opening Title Card,

- 2021 Ranked: boxd.it/aL2Ys

I know that this will sound weird but this movie makes me feel seen.

Yes, a movie about a former British princess makes me, a 42 year old dude living in Ohio, feel seen. And I imagine it'll make other people feel seen and understood as well. I struggle a great deal with social norms and pressures and judgement from others... it all freaks me out. And I don't just mean it gets me stressed I mean it intensely freaks me out, causes fits and panic attacks and emotional breakdowns at times. I'm not all correct in the head and I know that but that's what the pressure to act normal does for me. I basically have almost never, in my entire life, felt normal among other people, or like I truly fit in except for in very limited instances like with my wife, child and absolute closest friends. The pressure to perform and the reminder that, as Michel Foucault once said, "the judges of normality are present everywhere," is a constant stress to me and was growing up.

And I don't mean this in an "I'm just built different" sort of way... I'm not special I'm just kind of a weird but average dude who feels overwhelmed by societal pressures and human interaction. If anything it's not special it's embarrassing. I like to be alone a lot if for no other reason that I don't have to worry about what someone else thinks people should act like. Cultural mores bother me, traditions baffle me, customs create great stress for me.... I'm a real mess. I feel like when I try to participate in social life I often screw it up, or don't do it the exact way a person wants me to do it and then I just kind of withdraw and get depressed.

I am aware that this is not exclusively, or entirely, what the film is about and each person's circumstances are different but what Spencer does so fucking well in my opinion is truly explore the coercive power of normalcy and the paranoia and pain that feeling constantly watched creates for a person who is sensitive to such things. From the opening scene when she just wants fucking directions and to be left alone, to the touching moments she has with her children, to the "fuck it, let's get some KFC" of the ending I get it. When she walks out into the middle of the pheasant shoot I felt that... I felt that explosion of emotion and the need to just have people that care about you around you and buck what is expected.

The film does such a good job of showing Diana alone in her feelings and imprisoned by what people "should" do. I love how much of the movie is just Stewart walking through large and oppressive monuments to social structure while the most unsettling but beautiful music plays. The casting of Stewart is a marvel but the strength of the remainder of the cast is what makes this an amazing movie and not just best actress Oscar bait. The faces of the cast are so perfectly disapproving and confused at her behavior and if you're someone like me, with my paranoia, that is what every person feels like almost all of the time. The end of the film feels triumphant in the moment but as Diana looks off in the distance into the water you can't help but think about how her life ended. Being chased by those forces that judged her relative to standards she didn't want to live up to.

The film is also quite pretty and because I identify so well with some of the specific emotions being presented I would almost describe Spencer as a cozy film for me. It lowers my blood pressure and makes me feel settled in a way a lot films don't. So that's why I like it just a little better than others seem to but I think the themes are least somewhat relatable to everyone. I'm sure most people have experienced some form of anxiety about social pressures and really have wanted to just escape and have the world leave them the fuck alone. I understand that and this film understands that.

I recommend this film to everybody.

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