Lifting the lid on Princess Diana's 'crowded' royal marriage. Again

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·7-min read
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The Prince and Princess of Wales on the steps of the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital with their son Prince William as they leave for Kensington Palace in 1982
The Prince and Princess of Wales on the steps of the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital with their son Prince William as they leave for Kensington Palace in 1982

THE PRINCESS (12A, 100 mins)

Twenty-five years after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, director Ed Perkins reflects on the life of the "people's princess" in a feature-length documentary, which spans the period between her 1981 engagement to Charles, Prince of Wales and her televised funeral.

A mosaic of archive footage, interviews and home videos relives the tumultuous 16 years in chronological order.

The Princess opens with footage from outside The Ritz in Paris, where paparazzi have gathered to compete for valuable images of Diana and Dodi Fayed together.

Blurred images of impending tragedy cut to a fresh-faced Diana emerging from her flat in South Kensington to polite yet 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 polished performances in front of cameras in later years, including excerpts from a controversial 1995 BBC Panorama interview with Martin Bashir in which she famously remarks: "There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded."

Before the acrimony is splashed across the front pages of the tabloids, Perkins juxtaposes 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 describes the union as "the stuff of which fairy tales are made".

His hopeful prediction, that Charles and Diana will live "happily ever after", elicits a very different emotional response with the benefit of 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 in this modern-day fairy tale.

Pointedly, footage of Charles and Camilla riding together during hunting season culminates in distressing footage of a hare being mauled by the hounds. 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 one holiday.

This fractious relationship between Diana and the press is illustrated with tense exchanges on ski slopes and candid audio from one photographer complaining that the princess courts publicity one day and shuns it the next.

The Princess is a fascinating time capsule that reminds us of the enduring fascination of the royal family and our own culpability in the voracious media circus that swallowed them whole during the 1980s and 1990s.

It is impeccably edited but ultimately traipses over the same ground as countless other films about one of the most famous women on the planet, viewed adoringly from a distance rather than behind closed doors.

7/10

MINIONS: THE RISE OF GRU (U, 88 mins)

About 30 minutes into Kyle Balda's outlandish computer-animated caper co-directed by Brad Ableson and Jonathan del Val, I experienced an unsettling head rush of deja vu, convinced I had already seen these madcap misadventures of adolescent supervillain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) and his goggle-eyed yellow hench-creatures.

A nagging sense of familiarity pervades every brightly coloured frame of Minions: The Rise Of Gru, the fifth instalment of the Despicable Me saga, which currently wears the crown of the highest-grossing animated franchise of all time.

Trading heavily on the pratfalls and naive tomfoolery of the titular sidekicks, Balda's picture will add handsomely to the coffers but lacks dramatic necessity.

Scriptwriters Brian Lynch and Matthew Fogel hastily sketch an origin story for gadget guru Dr Nefario (Russell Brand) around a bruising battle between Gru and larcenous rivals, who opine that "evil is for adults, not for tubby little punks who should be at school".

Broad physical humour, including one minion's close encounter with the power flush of an airplane toilet, elicits gurgles of glee from younger audience members.

Seventies pop culture references are aimed at parents, who might otherwise sneak micro naps between overblown action sequences, building to a final showdown that reduces several blocks of San Francisco to smouldering digital rubble.

The year is 1976 and Gru has reached the criminally prodigious age of 11 and three quarters.

While the minions continue haphazard construction of an underground lair, Gru laments the death of his idol, Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin), leader of a diabolical dream team christened 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 dismiss Gru.

In retaliation for the ageist snub, the resourceful tyke steals an ancient amulet from the Vicious 6 that can harness the power of the 12 creatures of the Chinese zodiac.

Belle Bottom and her enraged compatriots give chase and minions Bob, Kevin and Stuart take a hasty lesson in self-defence from a retired kung-fu master turned acupuncturist (Michelle Yeoh).

Minions: The Rise Of Gru delivers the breathless entertainment and escapism we have come to expect with casual ease.

Visuals are slick and efficient, which is an apt summation of everything Balda and his team confidently marshal on screen.

Carell's subdued vocal performance is disappointing, while a flimsy plot springs a leak well before rapscallion Gru detonates a stink bomb in a packed cinema screening of Jaws.

Spielberg's great white shark lost its bite after four films.

The Despicable Me saga has gone one better but should heed the blood in the water.

6/10

NITRAM (15, 112 mins)

Caleb Landry-Jones won the coveted Best Actor prize at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival for his portrayal of a troubled young man based on Martin Bryant, the lone gunman responsible for killing 35 people and wounding a further 23 during the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.

Written by director Justin Kurzel's long-time collaborator Shaun Grant, Nitram unfolds 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 to people around him, with one notable exception.

He develops an unexpectedly close friendship with a reclusive heiress called Helen (Essie Davis).

When their bond is cruelly severed, Nitram's anger builds and he vents his mounting frustration with catastrophic consequences.

7/10

WAYFINDER (PG, 83 mins)

London-born multidisciplinary artist Larry Achiampong explores post-colonial and post-digital identity in his work, which spans film, sculpture, installation, sound, collage, music and performance.

Inspired by themes in the ongoing Relic Traveller project, his debut feature film follows a young girl called the Wanderer (Perside Rodrigues) as she treks across England during a pandemic.

Her odyssey begins on the ancient paths of Hadrian's Wall and moves south, passing through a housing estate in Wellingborough and the deserted National Gallery at night en route to Margate.

The Wanderer encounters a cross-section of modern society on her journey, which is divided into six chapters, inspiring a lively dialogue about cultural heritage, class, displacement and the meaning of home.

ERIC RAVILIOUS: DRAWN TO WAR (PG, 88 mins)

Born in London and raised in Sussex, painter Eric Ravilious was hired as a war artist during the Second World War and became the first to die in active service when his search-and-rescue aircraft crashed in 1942 off the coast of Iceland.

He is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial.

Shot 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-length film devoted entirely to the artist and his output.

Rare archive footage and previously unseen private correspondence allow Ravilious to recount his story in his words with on-screen contributions from Alan Bennett, Tamsin Greig, Robert Macfarlane, Grayson Perry and Ai Weiwei.

PUSH (12A, 92 mins)

Getting one foot on the property ladder is becoming increasingly difficult.

A younger generation must contemplate living at home for longer to save a sizeable deposit or abandon the idea of owning a property to rent instead.

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.

He follows Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, as she holds governments to account for their obligations in the UN Human Rights Charter and tries to make sense of radical changes around the world to the housing crisis.

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