Until Thursday, I can’t remember the last time I cried while watching a movie in a theater. I remember the first time I cried though — watching What’s Eating Gilbert Grape at a tender age and witnessing the death of the obese mother unfold. It must have struck a sensitive chord in me at that time (since I, until now, am certainly not the crying type) but which one, I don’t recall. (Maybe it was ominous of my struggle with my own mild [?!] case of body dysmorphia.) I saw The Queen two nights ago and found myself helplessly tearing up towards the movie’s end. It was during that scene when Queen Elizabeth II begins her humbled effort at acknowledging Diana’s death publicly starting with her viewing of the flowers on Balmoral Castle’s gate (where she holed the royal family in France for a week into Diana’s death, insisting on a private mourning as opposed to the British public’s clamor for a public one.) Alarmed yet grateful, I felt the tears stream down my cheeks as I watched her duplicate the effort, on a grander scale, outside Buckingham Palace, especially when she is astounded by a young girl who offers her a bouquet of flowers, thinking that they were not for her but for Diana.

I had been meaning to see this movie for a long time (since I’ve always been a sucker for any movie that the NYTimes critics pick and this was one of them.) Somehow though, my hectic and erratic schedule always gets in the way. But now that it’s Oscar season, I am more vigorously pursuing my movie sched. (Carter, my ex, got me into the habit of being a cinephile and an Oscar junkie. We would watch docus and foreign films at Film Forum and the old classics at Moving Image; then, we would always resolve to watch all the films nominated for an Oscar during the two years we were together which we never got around to accomplishing. I know feeling the sting in this kind of failure seems petty but, in hindsight, it really was another marker in the death of us, a big part of which were being [pretentious] amateur film critics and cinema junkies, together.) Tim, my bf, shares in my desire to actually finish watching all the films nominated this year.

I hardly knew anything about this movie beyond it being about Elizabeth II and now, an Oscar nominee for Best Film. (I’m sure I read the NYTimes review but since it came out a long time ago, the details escape me.) I spent my childhood in Asia and am more familiar with the preoccupations of Japanese royalty than with those of the English. (Do the Marcoses, the Philippines’ pseudo-royals, also count?!) A movie about Elizabeth II seems to tug at my heart just as much as a movie about another forgettable European royal. What I didn’t realize though was that this movie was about the Queen dealing with the death of Diana which was, practically a universal event. (I recall, still in Manila, coming home on a Saturday night with my brother, in front of CNN, telling me that Diana died in a car accident. I vividly remember being helplessly drawn to sit by my brother and watch the news unfold on tv.) It was a most interesting frame.

A friend has already dismissed the film as a vehicle for the monarchists and Stephen Frears, the director, and Peter Morgan, the writer, among their apologists. (Frost/Nixon, the play coming into Bway, is written by Morgan. I am certainly going to see it.) I really didn’t care for this angle. I cared for the portrayal of the human face that holds the crown. I cared for the woman who was cringing in her nightgown as she watched footage about her estranged daughter-in-law on nightly news. I cared for her in a hunter’s parka and boots driving a truck and getting stranded on a shallow river, allowing her time to gaze at a 14-antlered deer. I cared for her leisurely walking her colties in her summer home — okay, so it was a castle — in the French countryside. What I found most striking about this otherwise ordinary woman was the level of commitment she as a Queen is pushed into giving. She has committed her whole life, and her commitment is lifelong. The tension between her private beliefs (insisting on the funeral issue being a private one for the Spencers since Diana, after her separation from Charles and her subsequent estrangement from the Royal Family, was no longer a royal) and her public trust (which is to listen to her people who are clamoring for a public manifest of grief for their princess) was most palpable. Needless to say, Helen Mirren was the anchor in this exposition. (To say that she delivered an Oscar-worthy and winning performance is somehow still understating her phenomenal acting in this film.) In the end, her decision was most inspiring and, yes, quite moving.

Maybe I cried because I was still dealing with the death of my aunt and this movie allowed me a visceral outlet for it. Maybe it was because I was touched by the power of generational imagery — a young girl giving flowers to an older woman is heartwarming in its raw innocence. Maybe it was due to being witness to the unwavering hope for radical change in even the most stoic and most traditional of people. Maybe it was because of my own envy for someone like Elizabeth II who seems to have had an easier journey at finding her lifelong commitment; it was already an option that she was born into(, and yet, that she still had to accept.) Maybe I cried because of all these.

What is my lifelong commitment? I don’t know yet. At the cusp of a new job and almost a year with my bf, I am consoled knowing where my current ones are.

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