Full of wit, humor, and pathos, Stephen Frears' moving portrait of the British royals during the period after Princess Diana's death features not one but two remarkable performances, that of Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II and Michael Sheen as the newly-ordained Prime Minister Tony Blair. They embody their characters and lay bare the motivations behind these prominent people, giving viewers a glimpse into the inner workings of the British monarchy.
A lesser director might make all of this deadly earnest, but Frears treats it as what you might call a tragi-comedy of manners, perfectly serious but human foibles everywhere.
Both [Michael Sheen and Helen Mirren] understand the prickly push-and-pull that defines the fight -- the Gray Monarch v. the Great Modernizer -- and give quiet gravitas to the polite but firm standoffs.
Stuffed with stinging truths about swiftly turning winds of public opinion, Stephen Frears' film is a tough, fair-minded and, at times, morbidly satirical depiction of the extraordinary circumstance of leading in grief as well as government.