Heroes of the Zeroes: The Queen
Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.
Led by a command performance of internalized emotional turbulence from Helen Mirren, “The Queen” tragicomically charted a clash of personality and philosophy in the wake of Princess Diana’s 1997 death.
Mirren buried her luminosity beneath pinched features and dowdy dresses to dramatize detrimental effects that screenwriter Peter Morgan and director Stephen Frears suggest the tragedy had on Queen Elizabeth II.
Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) receives backhanded congratulations from Elizabeth II upon his election. Britain’s modern-day monarchy is a formality, not a mandate, but Elizabeth II will cling to the role of “advising” Blair’s government as a consolation.
Diana’s death puts asunder this status quo, widening a rift between royals and subjects that began with Diana’s divorce from Prince Charles. What the Royal Family sees as private reflection at its Balmoral vacation estate, the population perceives as inexplicable absence and a posthumous slap to Diana’s face.
Morgan and Frears tighten this tension like a drawing-room blind cord, and “The Queen” becomes an ideological slugfest between Blair and Elizabeth about whether to use the mourning process as political capital.
Mirren’s haughty, headstrong frostiness drives her desire to not irreversibly diminish the monarchy’s stature. Sheen’s healthily skeptical pragmatism fuels someone seeking not to push Elizabeth aside but productively reconcile her beliefs with the people’s demands.
Stuffed with stinging truths about swiftly turning winds of public opinion, 2006’s “The Queen” was a tough, fair-minded and, at times, morbidly satirical depiction of the extraordinary circumstance of leading in grief as well as government.