Helen Mirren, in a role that won her the Academy Award for Best Actress, plays the title role of Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen. The movie details events of the week immediately following the untimely death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and specifically covers the (non)reaction of the Windsor family. Newly elected Prime Minister Tony Blair (expertly played by Michael Sheen) seemed able to judge the mood of the nation, speaking only mere hours after Diana's death and designating her as the "people's princess."As many will remember, the royal family gave no public statement until the negative reaction of the English people forced it to do so. In unprecedented moves, the queen addressed the nation in a live broadcast to "pay tribute" to Diana and allowed the Union Flag to fly at half-mast over Buckingham Palace (the royal flag flies only when the queen is in residence there).
The film includes actual footage of Diana, her funeral service, and the public outpouring of support near Buckingham Palace. Mirren's performance is a wonder, imbuing Queen Elizabeth with much dignity, grace, and sense of tradition. The production was filmed beautifully, and the score perfectly matched the mood and tone of the film. The screenwriter Peter Morgan was able to glean much information from sources close to Prime Minister Blair and the Royals which helped in constructing conversations and events.
The Queen was nominated for six Academy Awards, winning only Best Actress. Mirren's win (and Forest Whitaker's, for The Last King of Scotland) continues the string of actors who have won for playing real-life persons.
It was impossible to watch the film and not think back to the events of that week, and how life was like for me. The Wife and I had been married just over a year. We were living at the Ronald McDonald House of Dayton (Ohio), where The Wife worked as the night manager. I was working as a case manager for mentally ill persons at a local mental health center. The evening of the accident, we had gone with a friend (our maid of honor) to see My Best Friend's Wedding. We returned home and learned of the accident, and I remember Tom Cruise was on CNN condeming the papparazzi.