Most people can tell you where they were and what they were doing when they heard of the fateful crash that killed the Princess of Wales on August 31, 1997.
Interest in her life remains strong, and the biographical drama Diana has been long-awaited by many. Written by Stephen Jeffreys and based on the 2001 book by Kate Snell titled Diana: Her Last Love, it reveals the private tale of a woman seeking love and a life of meaning.
While British critics have savaged director Oliver Hirschbiegel’s biopic, describing it as “excruciatingly sentimental” and “intrusive”, this serves as a reminder of the prolific media scrutiny Diana encountered in life and in legacy. There is much to enjoy about the film, especially for the people who loved the woman known as the “Queen of People’s Hearts”.
With Naomi Watts in the title role, the story begins three years after Diana’s highly publicised separation from Prince Charles and covers the final two years of her life, when she was navigating her way through a maze of protocol, publicity and unceasing intrusion by the paparazzi. In the midst of all this, she still managed to explore a newfound freedom and sense of personal power.
Watts portrays Diana as a woman with a naturally effervescent and flirtatious nature, generosity of spirit and a tender heart. Audiences are given a glimpse of her inner life, her motivation to make a difference, and the struggle she endured in the public eye while trying to keep some semblance of privacy.
The film explores the bonds Diana shared with her sons, her friend Sonia (played by Juliet Stevenson) and psychic consultant Oonagh Toffolo (Geraldine James), to whom she divulged a recurring dream of falling, of being pushed and “shut out” by Charles, her immediate family (as a young girl) and also the royal family.
A chance meeting at the local hospital with heart surgeon Dr Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews) led to the start of a new relationship which seemed to give her strength and direction, providing a platform for her contributions to humanitarian causes, including the international campaign to ban land mines. But navigating a new life path was as risky and controversial as crossing a field of land mines and, while her public engagements and popularity were soaring, Diana’s private life was again under scrutiny. At the same time, cultural differences posed challenges in her relationship with Hasnat.
Diana said that life is simple, it is our choices that are often complicated, and in what appeared to be a knee-jerk reaction to the end of her time with Hasnat, she accepted an invitation from Dodi Fayed (Cas Anvar). The rest is history.
Watts captures the passion and vulnerability of Diana’s spirit at a time in the Princess’s life that seemed to be filled with substance and purpose, while director Hirschbiegel elegantly reveals the sensitivity of the woman behind the headlines.
This film takes risks to deliver the untold story. It is a must-see for Diana’s fans.
© Patricia Herreen 2013