'Elizabeth: A Portrait in Part(s)': 70 years of Queen Elizabeth II in Roger Michell's last film

·5 min read

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.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 23: Queen Elizabeth II is given a tour by Keith Weed, President of the Royal Horticultural Society during a visit to The Chelsea Flower Show 2022 at the Royal Hospital Chelsea on May 23, 2022 in London, England. The Chelsea Flower Show returns to its usual place in the horticultural calendar after being cancelled in 2020 and postponed in 2021 due to the Covid pandemic. This year sees the Show celebrate the Queen's Platinum Jubilee and also a theme of calm and mindfulness running through the garden designs. (Photo by Paul Grover - Pool / Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 23: Queen Elizabeth II is given a tour by Keith Weed, President of the Royal Horticultural Society during a visit to The Chelsea Flower Show 2022 at the Royal Hospital Chelsea on May 23, 2022 in London, England. The Chelsea Flower Show returns to its usual place in the horticultural calendar after being cancelled in 2020 and postponed in 2021 due to the Covid pandemic. This year sees the Show celebrate the Queen's Platinum Jubilee and also a theme of calm and mindfulness running through the garden designs. (Photo by Paul Grover - Pool / Getty Images)

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.”

Photograph of Queen Elizabeth II with Prince Charles and Prince Andrew at Balmoral Castle.. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Photograph of Queen Elizabeth II with Prince Charles and Prince Andrew at Balmoral Castle.. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

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.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 10: An arrangement of UK daily newspapers shows front page headlines reporting Queen Elizabeth's respond over the interview given by the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle and her husband Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, to media mogul Oprah Winfrey about their experiences with Buckingham Palace, in London, United Kingdom on March 10, 2021. (Photo by Hasan Esen/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 10: An arrangement of UK daily newspapers shows front page headlines reporting Queen Elizabeth's respond over the interview given by the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle and her husband Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, to media mogul Oprah Winfrey about their experiences with Buckingham Palace, in London, United Kingdom on March 10, 2021. (Photo by Hasan Esen/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

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.

Windsor Castle, the morning after the fire which severely damaged large sections the gothic building. 17/11/97: 6 months ahead of schedule and  3 million under budget, the restoration of the Queen's favourite residence has been completed and was opened.  * To the world's media for the first time since the restorations began five years ago. 6/11/99: The Earl of Wessex was due to deliver a paid lecture on the restoration of Windsor Castle. Up to 600 people have paid  299 for a heritage weekend which includes a visit to the Theatre Royal in Windsor to hear the prince talk for an hour about the restoration of the castle after the devastating fire in 1992. 18/12/00: Scottish experts are to lead the way in a bid to prevent fires which have ravaged historic buildings such as Windsor Castle and La Scala in Milan.  Government agency Historic Scotland is to launch a guide to managing the risk of fire in ancient buildings which will be used across Europe.   (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Windsor Castle, the morning after the fire which severely damaged large sections the gothic building. 17/11/97: 6 months ahead of schedule and 3 million under budget, the restoration of the Queen's favourite residence has been completed and was opened. * To the world's media for the first time since the restorations began five years ago. 6/11/99: The Earl of Wessex was due to deliver a paid lecture on the restoration of Windsor Castle. Up to 600 people have paid 299 for a heritage weekend which includes a visit to the Theatre Royal in Windsor to hear the prince talk for an hour about the restoration of the castle after the devastating fire in 1992. 18/12/00: Scottish experts are to lead the way in a bid to prevent fires which have ravaged historic buildings such as Windsor Castle and La Scala in Milan. Government agency Historic Scotland is to launch a guide to managing the risk of fire in ancient buildings which will be used across Europe. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

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.

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