The Crown – a semi-review.

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The Crown is a netflix series about the early life of Queen Elizabeth II.

This is a magnificent series spanning ten hours and ten years of the queen’s life. The Crown is the most  gorgeously presented and masterfully acted television films of all time. The star studded cast does justice to a script that is believable and yet dramatic. The plot fills in enough background without overburdening the viewer with too much history.

The dramatis personae is headed by Claire Foy in the role of the queen. She is ably partnered by Matt Smith as Prince Philip. John Lithgow plays Churchill in a bravura manner. Lithgow gets the accent just right. He is perhaps the very best American actor at British accents. He also avoids overdoing it.

The striking thing about watching this film is just how radically the world has changed in 70 years. When the film open India has only just become independent and the British Empire is thought to have a long term future. There are very few ethnic minority people in London. There were not many cars about and domestic heating was coal. No one had any notion that smoking was unhealthy.

The costumes are beautifully cut and flawless. The scenery is very credible and the interiors are not overly lit. The whole effect is very realistic.

Claire Foy’s accent as the queen may seem to be over articulated but it is not. Listen to any recording of the queen from the 1950s and her diction seems risibly cut glass. This actress did well not to shy away from the stratospherically posh pronunciation of the epoch. This was the class divide at its very widest.

Foy and the playwright do well to show the queen as diffident, almost bland and sometimes unsure for herself.  Claire Foy plays the queen subtly and with great verve. Perhaps the most magisterial moment came when Prince Philip comes to break the news of her father’s death. Philip has not said a word but his expression communicates the bereavement. The realisation spreads over the queen’s face in an inimitable fashion. It was a peerless piece of method acting showing outstanding control and understatement.

If one has to be bitchy (one does) then there are some betise. Lithgow is 6 inches too tall to portray Churchill. The stoop is overdone. The actor playing George VI is too full bodied. Nonetheless the king is shown to be in failing health. He goes hunting a lot before his final decline. It begs the question did he strain himself because he wanted to die? The actress playing Princess Margaret has the looks and the air of naughtiness to her. However, she is supposed to be 17 when the film begins and a 28 year old does not carry this off with aplomb.

Edward VIII is something of a villain. Most people would say this is fair. The playboy prince is out for himself. He wants to have his cake and eat it: not be king but still enjoy many privileges. He is superbly acted.

The political machinations are depicted in a gripping manner. The script also avoids too much exposition.

Much of the script is per force imagined. There were many prime ministerial audiences with the queen. No  one else is present and nothing is ever recorded. Only Blair ever broke protocol and wrote anything down about it. Therefore the dialogue has to be imagined.

Hadden Paton does an admirable job as Lord Charteris. Hadden Paton went to Eton where Lord Charteris was provost – though before Hadden Paton was a boy there. This possible allowed the actor to speak to some people at his old school who knew the man personally.

This is a truly captivating film. I give it my warmest possible recommendation.

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About Calers

Born Belfast 1971. I read history at Edinburgh. I did a Master's at UCL. I have semi-libertarian right wing opinions. I am married with a daughter and a son. I am allergic to cats. I am the falling hope of the not so stern and somewhat bending Tories. I am a legal beagle rather than and eagle. Big up the Commonwealth of Nations.

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