VOD film reivew: Elizabeth: A Portrait in Parts
James R | On 01, Jun 2022
Director: Roger Michell
Cast: Queen Elizabeth II, Lenny Henry, Robbie Williams
One is hardly short of choice for what to watch to celebrate the Queen’s historic 70-year reign. But Elizabeth: A Portrait in Parts might be the film to beat, delivering all the respect and pomp you could wish for, but with a more than circumstantial slice of playful wit.
The film chronicles the long reign of the monarch, right through from her coronation to her in 2022, with the “Parts” of the title emerging as fairly straightforward chapter titles, from “Beginners” and “The Queen’s Speech” to “At Home”. The footage, too, is archive coverage stitched together, taking us from news reports to interviews. But it’s the way it’s stitched together that impresses, something that becomes clear from the off, as Robbie Williams’ Let Me Entertain You belts out over the soundtrack – from the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert back in 2012.
For all the clips of the Queen in action, there’s also room for other people, including people even playing the Queen in other formats. We see the Queen trooping the colour, but also Harry Hill dancing in a first class postage stamp, Claire Foy and Olivia Colman portraying her in The Crown and Prunella Scales as the Queen in Alan Bennett’s A Question of Attribution. This cultural collage turns the documentary into a profile of more than just the Queen herself, but what she has represented for seven decades – a mixture of national dreams, aspirations, perceptions and projections.
It’s more an assembly than a dissection, though, with acknowledgement of less tasteful things – such as the purportedly patriotic National Front or the interview in which Prince Andrew said that he couldn’t sweat – and perhaps not as much attention as you’d like dismantling their problematic complexities.
But while the parade of celebrities ensures that we’re on respectful ground, the film repeatedly surprises with an editing choice here or an irreverent aside there. The result is far more than the documentary this could have been, painting a portrait of a resilient head of state that also reflects the country’s relationship with her. It’s a human piece of work that smiles with compassion – if you’re looking for one thing to watch for the Platinum Jubilee, this is hard to beat.