Golden Cages 2021: Best Actress


2021 has mercifully ended, which means it’s that time of the year again when the Flixist staff gathers around for our 2021 Golden Cages! Every year we honor the best, and worst, that cinema has to offer, and with cinemas opening up again, we had many films to consider for each category! So read on dear reader, to see what the correct answers are to which movies were truly stand-out films last year!

The royals have long been a subject of controversy and scandal, and perhaps the most difficult to read character of the whole menagerie in recent years was Diana, ill-fated Princess of Wales. It seems her story will remain a source of inspiration, whether it’s spawning countless highbrow biographies or the decidedly less tasteful films, including Netflix’s recent (and ill-advised) Diana: The Musical.

Yet while coverage of this martyr (or femme fatale, depending on who you ask) isn’t in short supply, Pablo Larraín’s imagining of the Princess in a tumultuous Christmas weekend at Sandringham stands out because of its sheer ghostly quality. We’re all too aware of what will happen once the credits roll, but the film keeps us in a constant state of tension as we see flickers of the vision of Anne Boleyn, or a scarecrow donning Diana’s late father’s red coat. The whisperings of someone’s tragic demise are all around, yet it seems that Stewart’s Diana is already fast on her way to becoming a shell of the vivacious personality she once was. She’s waning – losing the will to remain in this arch, untrustworthy family, her bright spark slowly flickering out.

As I’ve mentioned in my review, Stewart doesn’t so much play a role as inhabit the person of the late Princess. We’ve already associated Stewart with the otherworldly, be it through her Twilight teen years or 2016’s Personal Shopper, in which she plays a woman trying to spiritually reconnect with her lost twin brother, and so Spencer feels like the natural continuation of this trajectory. As a performer, she has a knack for treading the ambiguous line between fantasy and reality. After all, who are we to say what really went on behind closed doors? Many have tried to lift the lid on what life was really like for the Princess, but this film feels like we’re trying to connect with one long gone through a performer who knows just how to recreate the essence of people lost to time and place.

I’m lauding Stewart as Best Actress of the past year because her portrayal felt so convincing. In what’s clearly a challenging role, not least because of constant public scrutiny of the royals in recent months and because of the messages this sends out about a beloved national icon, Stewart shines. She takes to the maligned Princess as gracefully and naturally as if she’d prepared to play her throughout her whole career. Larrain may have helmed the ship, but it’s Stewart who really breathes humanity into the character, captivating viewers along the way.

Sian Francis Cox
Sian is Flixist’s UK Editor and has written for sites including Escapist Magazine, Destructoid, and Film Enthusiast.