Just in time for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, the last film from famed director, the late Roger Michell (Notting Hill, Enduring Love), Elizabeth: A Portrait in Part(s), plays on 35 screens across Canada this week.
Coming in at just under 90 minutes long, Elizabeth: A Portrait in Part(s) is a curated collection of archival footage from the 1930s to the 2020s, piecing together different versions of the Queen and reflecting on how ingrained she is in our lives.
“The Crown is an idea more than a person,” the Queen says in an archival voice over clip.
While that may be the case, this crown-wearing royal is the longest-serving female head of state in the history of the world and the world’s oldest living monarch, so really, she’s quite synonymous with that crown at this point.
Even more-so, the fascination with her, and even the royals more broadly, is clearly documented through history. There’s even one clip where full-grown adults are frustrated when asked to allow children to go up front to see the Queen getting out of her car.
Paul McCartney even admitted that he, along with his childhood friends, had a crush on the Queen, calling her a “babe.”
While much of the clips shown in the documentary are likely all things fans of the monarchy have seen before, there's an emphasis on the repetition in the Queen's life. The same annual speeches, being greeted the same way by everyone she meets.
Where the film succeeds is taking a lighter, almost a tongue-and-cheek approach to chronicling her life, looking for those moments where she smirks, gets excited about something, or makes rather lighthearted comments, and juxtaposing those moments with the more regimented aspects of her daily duties. This also includes featuring Queen Elizabeth's "stand in" for rehearsals for events.
"It's very hard to smile for a long time,...it's quite difficult," Ella Slack says in a clip featured in the documentary.
Much of that is done through the music choices in Elizabeth: A Portrait in Part(s). While the documentary is like a collage of the Queen’s life, the soundtrack makes the film as much of a musical journey as it is a visual experience, which includes Robbie Williams and Stormzy.
But not every aspect of the documentary is positive, with the film including footage of the late Princess Diana, her wedding to Charles, Prince of Wales and the announcement of their separation, and Diana fans criticizing the Queen for not speaking out sooner about her death.
It also includes clips of Prince Andrew and his controversial “I don’t sweat” comments, and headlines from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s infamous Oprah interview.
All these more controversial moments are show among images of the Windsor Castle fire in 1992, to really drive home the message of the tensions and criticism in the Queen’s life.
Whether you're a fan or critic of the monarchy, there's no denying the lasting cultural impact of Queen Elizabeth ll, and Roger Michell's documentary really exemplifies that fact.
Elizabeth: A Portrait in Part(s) screens May 25 (matinee) and May 28 (evening) on 35 screens across Canada.