Helen Mirren deservedly won both an Oscar and a BAFTA for best actress for playing Her Majesty Elizabeth II in Stephen Frears’ The Queen. In 2005, Mirren played Elizabeth I in a wonderful HBO mini-series.
Beyond a certain resemblance to the Queen, Mirren brings four decades of experience with creating believable and memorable characters to the screen. She gives the Queen an incredible sense of focus and gravity which helps to make her a person rather than a character.
Some people avoided this film, thinking it might be in some ways inflammatory but I think the exact opposite is true. Frears does a superb job remaining respectful to all the Royals, including Princess Diana. The film makes clever use of archival news footage that is intended to represent the public’s side of the story. The wonderful scripted scenes in the film are utterly believable. It’s like getting a glimpse into the private rooms of the Royal Family. I think this is all the more moving for those of us who lived through the events of the film.
I think the film provides us with a great portrait of a living leader. The audience is sympathetic to the historical shifts that have taken place during the Queen’s long reign. As happened in life, we cannot help but forgive the Queen any perceived slights. We respect her and by the end come to embrace and understand her role more than ever before.