Twenty-five years after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, director Ed Perkins looks back on the life of the ‘people’s princess’ in a feature documentary, which covers the period between her 1981 engagement to Charles, Prince of Wales and his televised funeral.
A mosaic of archival footage, interviews and home videos brings those 16 tumultuous years to life in chronological order.
The Princess opens with images from outside the Ritz in Paris, where paparazzi gathered to compete for treasured images of Diana and Dodi Fayed together.
Blurred footage of impending tragedy cut to a fresh-faced Diana emerging from her South Kensington flat to polite but persistent questions from female reporters about when an engagement to Prince Charles might be announced.
She meets these intrusions with nervous smiles, a far cry from the polished performances in front of the cameras of later years, including excerpts from a controversial 1995 BBC Panorama interview with Martin Bashir in which she remarks: “There were three of us in this marriage , so there were a few people.
Before the acrimony was splashed on the front pages of the tabloids, Perkins juxtaposed scenes of social unrest with the jubilation of the 1981 royal wedding, accompanied by words from the sermon of Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury, who described the union as “the stuff of which fairy tales are made”.
Her hopeful prediction that Charles and Diana will live “happily ever after” elicits a very different emotional response in hindsight.
Composer Martin Phipps noticeably introduces discordant notes to accompany a first glimpse of Camilla Parker Bowles at a polo match to identify her as the villain of this modern-day fairy tale.
Of note, the footage of Charles and Camilla riding together during hunting season ends with distressing images of a hare mauled by dogs. The visual metaphor is clear.
The media frenzy that surrounded Diana is a recurring theme and the young princes are shown running a gauntlet of prying lenses during a holiday.
This tumultuous relationship between Diana and the press is illustrated by tense exchanges on the ski slopes and the candid audio of a photographer complaining that the princess is courting publicity one day and avoiding it the next.
The Princess is a fascinating time capsule that reminds us of the royal family’s enduring fascination and our own guilt in the voracious media circus that engulfed them in the 1980s and 1990s.
It’s impeccably edited but ultimately returns to the same ground as countless other films about one of the most famous women on the planet, watched adoringly from a distance rather than behind closed doors.
MINIONS: THE RISE OF GRU (U, 88 min)
About 30 minutes into Kyle Balda’s computer-animated extravagant capers co-directed by Brad Ableson and Jonathan del Val, I experienced an unsettling head rush of deja vu, convinced that I had seen these misadventures before. mad about teenage supervillain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) and his beady-eyed yellow creatures.
A tenacious sense of familiarity permeates every brightly colored frame of Minions: The Rise Of Gru, the fifth installment in the Despicable Me saga, which currently bears the crown of the highest-grossing animated franchise of all time.
Trading heavily on the downfalls and naïve deceptions of the titular sidekicks, Balda’s pic will add generously to coffers but lack dramatic necessity.
Screenwriters Brian Lynch and Matthew Fogel hastily sketch out an origin story for gadget guru Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) around a deadly battle between Gru and larceny rivals, who believe “evil is for grown-ups.” , not for chunky little punks who should be in school”.
The broad physical humor, including a minion’s close encounter with an airplane’s toilet flush, elicits gurgles of delight from young viewers.
The ’70s pop culture references are aimed at parents, who might otherwise weave their way between over-the-top action sequences, leading to a final showdown that reduces several blocks of San Francisco to smoldering digital rubble.
It’s 1976 and Gru has reached the criminally prodigious age of 11 and three quarters.
As the minions continue the anarchic construction of an underground lair, Gru mourns the death of his idol, Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin), leader of an evil dream team dubbed the Vicious 6.
Surviving members Belle Bottom (Taraji P Henson), Jean Clawed (Jean-Claude Van Damme), Nun-chuck (Lucy Lawless), Svengeance (Dolph Lundgren) and Stronghold (Danny Trejo) interview for a replacement but cruelly reject Gru.
In retaliation for the ageist snub, the resourceful tyke steals an ancient Vicious 6 amulet that can harness the power of all 12 Chinese zodiac creatures.
Belle Bottom and her enraged compatriots give chase, and minions Bob, Kevin and Stuart hastily take a lesson in self-defense from a retired kung fu master turned acupuncturist (Michelle Yeoh).
Minions: The Rise Of Gru delivers the jaw-dropping fun and escapism we’ve come to expect with glib ease.
The visuals are slick and effective, which pretty much sums up everything Balda and his team confidently curate on screen.
Carell’s subdued vocal performance is underwhelming, while a flimsy plot leaks long before the rapscallion Gru detonates a stink bomb in a crowded cinematic screening of Jaws.
Spielberg’s Great White Shark lost its bite after four movies.
The Despicable Me saga did better but should consider the blood in the water.
NITRAM (15, 112 mins)
Caleb Landry-Jones won the coveted Best Actor award at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival for his portrayal of a troubled young man based on Martin Bryant, the sole gunman responsible for killing 35 people and injuring 23 others during the Port Arthur massacre in 1996.
Written by longtime collaborator of director Justin Kurzel, Shaun Grant, Nitram is set in the mid-1990s in suburban Australia, where the eponymous loner (Landry-Jones) lives with his father (Anthony Lapaglia) and mother (Judy Davis ).
Nitram is isolated from his parents and the local community, unable to form meaningful emotional connections with those around him, with one notable exception.
He develops a surprisingly close friendship with a reclusive heiress named Helen (Essie Davis).
When their bond is cruelly severed, Nitram’s anger rises and he vents his growing frustration with catastrophic consequences.
WAYFINDER (PG, 83 mins)
London-born multidisciplinary artist Larry Achiampong explores post-colonial and post-digital identity in his work, which encompasses film, sculpture, installation, sound, collage, music and performance.
Inspired by themes from the ongoing Relic Traveler project, her feature debut follows a young girl called the Wanderer (Perside Rodrigues) as she travels through England during a pandemic.
His odyssey begins on the ancient paths of Hadrian’s Wall and heads south, passing a housing estate in Wellingborough and the deserted National Gallery overnight en route to Margate.
The Wanderer encounters a cross section of modern society on his journey, which is divided into six chapters, inspiring lively dialogue about cultural heritage, class, displacement and the meaning of home.
ERIC RAVILIOUS: DRAWN TO WAR (PG, 88 min)
London-born, Sussex-raised painter Eric Ravilious was hired as a war artist during World War II and became the first to die on active duty when his search and rescue plane crashed in 1942 at the off the coast of Iceland.
He is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial.
Filmed entirely on location in the UK, Portugal and Ireland, Eric Ravilious: Drawn To War explores his legacy 80 years after his death.
Made with the blessing and support of the Ravilious Estate, director Margy Kinmonth’s documentary is the first feature film devoted entirely to the artist and her production.
Rare archival footage and unpublished private correspondence allow Ravilious to tell his story in his own words with on-screen contributions from Alan Bennett, Tamsin Greig, Robert Macfarlane, Grayson Perry and Ai Weiwei.
PUSH (12A, 92 mins)
Getting a foot on the property ladder is getting harder and harder.
A younger generation must consider living longer at home to save a hefty down payment or give up the idea of owning a property to rent out.
Award-winning filmmaker Fredrik Gerttsen travels to cities around the world, including Barcelona, London and New York, to explore how housing has become such a pressing issue.
It follows Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, as she holds governments accountable to their obligations under the UN Bill of Human Rights and tries to make sense of sweeping changes in the world in the face of the housing crisis.