by Laura Sillerman

Face it. We love her. The Queen of England, of course. Do we mean Her Majesty Elizabeth II or Dame Helen Mirren? Well, fortunately for us in 2006 we do not need to distinguish because for 97 brilliant celluloid minutes they are one and the same. 

In “The Queen,” the film depicting the week Lady Diana died, Dame Mirren doesn’t so much act the part of Queen Elizabeth as channel her — her gaze, her walk, her holding her handbag. She also gives us glimpses of the life of the private Queen at Balmoral — someone we’ve never seen but who is in absolute conjunction with the public woman the world has known for 50 years.

Make no mistake about it: Mirren, who won an Emmy in 2006 for her portrayal of Elizabeth I, is not a chameleon. She is more a perfect vessel into which her mind can pour its perceptions of a character in all the fullness of her consciousness and unconsciousness as well. 

How does a queen hold her head with hairclips in it?  How does a queen stand when being approached by a newly elected prime minister?  How does a queen deal with a Land Rover stuck in a muddy stream?  Mirren knows — by instinct, by study, by an obvious openness to the universe’s answers to such questions. 

And what she knows, she shows.  She shows us the tragedy of tradition gone anachronistic, the pain of being attacked for inhumanity when your training has been to set aside your own human concerns, and the ability to change in someone for whom change has been a notion she could not afford.

If you’ve seen “The Queen,” none of this is enough to celebrate what is certain to be the rich experience you had in viewing it. If you haven’t, perhaps these words and the mention of Mirren’s magic will be enough to remind you to treat yourself to an actress doing what women do best: understanding and appreciating what other women have gone through — royal or not.

Laura Baudo Sillerman, an author and poet, is president of a New York City-based charitable foundation and is a board member of Women’s Voices for Change.

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