In less than a month’s time, Her Majesty The Queen will become the second longest-reigning monarch ever after Louis XIV of France, and she’s only a couple of years off surpassing The Sun King. It’s no surprise then, in this modern era, that as Elizabeth II celebrates jubilee after jubilee, there’s always going to be a new documentary on the highs and lows of her reign. Having been on the British throne for over 70 years, for most of us she’s always been there. Our monarch has stood the test of time, living through the post-Imperial age as politicians beginning with Sir Winston Churchill and President Harry Truman come and go. She, however, endures – bound by a divine right of duty and service to her country.
What more then, could a new documentary film on The Queen’s life and reign have to say other than tacking on the last five to 10 years?
That’s where Elizabeth: A Portrait in Parts takes a surprising turn. Instead of chronologically looking back at her near century on this planet, the film is presented thematically, almost entirely via archive footage.
A section might look back at The Queen’s relationship with her late husband Prince Philip, jumping from black and white footage of them as pretty young things, before seeing them in their old age and then suddenly heading back to the 1970s or 1980s.
There is little commentary or talking heads, but an invitation from the late director Roger Michell to visually experience Elizabeth II across different aspects of her life and reign. It’s almost like an art installation of moving images, but without pretension.
At times the documentary is almost tongue-in-cheek, as footage of The Queen is compared with her portrayal on film and television by the likes of Dame Helen Mirren and the inevitable future Dame Olivia Colman.
At one point scenes from Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra on the Nile feature, contrasted with the monarch riding the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant in 2012.
The mind may wander a little at times during Elizabeth: A Portrait in Parts, but the best this documentary has to offer is an intimate look at the human side of Her Maj.
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There are almost cheeky scenes of delight, as she bobs along in a small jog at the races watching her beloved horses with The Queen Mother.
Additionally, formal state occasions like the Coronation, in which she acts the symbol, right alongside moments as a grandmother being stood on by a Royal Family toddler.
Ultimately, the late Michell invites the viewer to make their own mind up about The Queen as a person by just hanging out with her in both moments of ceremony and downtime. Whatever the audience’s conclusion, everyone can agree there’s never been anyone like her in the modern era.
Elizabeth: A Portrait in Parts is out now in select cinemas and will stream on Prime Video from June 1.