The late Roger Michell’s final film has now been posthumously released. It is a blandly tasteful and celebratory BBC One-style documentary for the platinum jubilee, with a melancholy new relevance, as if we are entering a new “regency” age. Sad to say, it goes down like a cup of tepid, milky and over-sugared tea.
Michell’s previous cinema documentary, Nothing Like a Dame, about Britain’s brilliant theatrical dames, had been full of fun. This is merely reverent. There is no original material: the film is stitched together from existing footage, all of which is very familiar, but the found-footage approach (which Asif Kapadia used so intimately and vividly with Diego Maradona and Amy Winehouse) now looks like a retread. We go through the reign from its early days to her majesty’s situation now, finally going back for a sombre reflection on the death and funeral of George VI, presumably in acknowledgement of the fact that another sad event may unfortunately be on the way.
Michell’s film touches on almost every single important event, placing due emphasis on the Commonwealth to which the Queen attaches such importance, but occasionally talking about the National Front and racists to pre-empt charges of naivety. There are clips of Claire Foy and Olivia Colman in Netflix’s The Crown and also Prunella Scales playing the Queen in Alan Bennett’s A Question of Attribution – these fictional versions supplying the private wit and wisdom that we long to witness in the real Queen, but can’t.
The film also goes through the “horribilis” rows that the Queen went through in the early 90s, though no mention of Michael Fagan, who broke into her bedroom a decade before. And the interview in which Prince Andrew claimed not to be able to sweat is duly included. But there was evidently no time to feature the Duke of Edinburgh’s death – a very odd omission – or the Queen’s startling and surely controversial decision to let Andrew guide her by the arm at the memorial service in church, signalling a forgiveness that many in the country do not share. A tea-towel of a film.
• Elizabeth: A Portrait in Parts is in cinemas from 27 May and on Prime Video from 1 June.