Helen Mirren delivers a royally stirring performance as Queen Elizabeth II in Stephen Frears's fictional romp, THE QUEEN. The year is 1997, and Great Britain has a newly elected prime minister, the youthful, optimistic Tony Blair (Michael Sheen). In Buckingham Palace, the Queen doesn't appear to be fazed by Blair's arrival. Then again, she doesn't appear to be fazed by anything. But when Diana--her son's ex-wife and the mother of her grandchildren--is killed in a tragic car accident, her authority is tested as never before. While the Queen Mother (Sylvia Syms) and Prince Philip (James Cromwell) agree with her decision to remain at their holiday estate in Balmoral and not publicly acknowledge the tragedy, Tony Blair feels differently. Unfortunately, so do the English people. Making matters worse is the out-of-control media, which has begun to castigate the queen for her silence. In order to retain her grip on the country that she has served for so many years, she must swallow her pride and let the world know that she does, in fact, care.
With THE QUEEN, the consistently superior Frears (DIRTY PRETTY THINGS, DANGEROUS LIAISONS) strikes once again. Peter Morgan's devilishly clever script provides the foundation, but the expert performances are what make the film such an exhilarating ride. What begins as a humorous critique of the stuffy royal family becomes an unexpectedly sympathetic portrait of a woman who carries the weight of a nation on her shoulders.
This film was chosen to be the opening night selection of the 44th New York Film Festival organized by the Film Society of Lincoln Center.