Kristen Stewart shines in Pablo Larraín’s latest drama Spencer. Told over the time span of Christmas and Boxing Day in 1991, the story follows Princess Diana (Stewart) as she has a mental breakdown due to Prince Charles’ infidelity, public scrutiny and the unwavering pressures that come with being a member of the royal family. Princess Diana is someone the audience will already be protective of and Stewart does a fantastic job portraying her not as a victim but of a free spirit trapped in a outdated lifestyle that prevents her from being her true authentic self. This is a story of a woman who just wanted to be loved.
This is a great role for Stewart. And although I couldn’t help but watch her performance and feel like this is an actress pretending to be Princess Diana, she did do a fantastic job getting the mannerisms and portraying Di’s loneliness and despair. It’s a tough watch especially for those of us who hold the memory of Di close to our hearts. Timothy Spall is incredible as Major Alistair Gregory as is Sally Hawkins as Princess Di’s closest confidante Maggie.
Spencer is distributed by Neon. It’s currently playing in select theaters and available to rent on demand.
Reggaeton dancer Ema (Mariana Di Girolamo) is in a tumultuous relationship with her choreographer/husband Gaston (Gael García Bernal). The two seem hellbent at destroying their relationship, throwing verbal jabs at each other and pouring salt on emotional wounds. Their adopted son Polo (Cristián Suárez) has been taken away for his destructive behavior and rehomed with a new family. Ema is desperate to get Polo back and will go to great lengths, including targeting the two new parents, to get him back. She embarks on a journey of self-discovery and destruction in order to fulfill her deepest desires.
“Ema, you’re going to battle.”
Director Pablo Larraín’s erotically charged Ema sets the screen ablaze with its magnetic star Mariana Di Girolamo. Her unique look, donning bleach blonde shellacked hair and a piercing gaze, is mesmerizing and you can’t help but fall for her like the other characters do in her story. There are some heavy themes including toxic relationships, parenthood, polyamory, self-destruction, sadism and pyromania. Scenes are intercut with dance sequences that feel seamless.
It’s difficult to understand why some of the characters, particularly Gaston, are so hard on Ema. And at one point I was getting We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011) vibes but Polo’s mental health struggles are not at all explored. I wish Ema’s story came with more background and context but that might have taken away from her mystery and charm.
TW: Depictions of fire and the aftermath of a serious burn. This film premiered at TIFF a couple years ago and while I wanted to watch it then I recently had burned my leg and couldn’t deal with any imagery of a burn victim (Ema’s sister after an accident) and fire (Ema sets objects on fire with a flamethrower). I’m glad I waited as I was much more prepared to watch the film this time around.
“Ema is a paradigm: she’s a character of characters. Daughter, mother,sister, wife, lover and leader. She’s very powerful and presents astriking, beautiful sort of femininity. She’s motivated by relentlessindividualism, as she clearly knows what she wants and is capableof seducing those around her in order to line up her destiny. Shewants to be a mother and have afamily; perhaps what moves and motivates her the most is love.“
Music Box Films will be releasing Ema on digital and VOD on September 14th. Visit the official website for more information.