(2021) Documentary (Discovery Plus) Prince Charles, Prince William, Princess Anne, Prince Harry, Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie, Prince Andrew, Sophie Countess of Wessex, Camilla Parker-Bowles, Alexandra McCreery, Zara Tindall, Mark Philips, Timothy Laurence, Louise Mountbatten-Windsor. Directed by Faye Hamilton and Mark Hill
To mark the occasion of the 100th birthday of Philip the Duke of Edinburgh, documentary filmmakers Faye Hamilton and Mark Hill sat down with various members of the Royal family to get their impressions of the husband of Elizabeth II, reigning monarch of the United Kingdom. When Philip passed away unexpectedly on April 9th of last year, two months shy of his birthday, the conversations took on an entirely different tone.
Additional interviews took place following the passing of the prince, and along with the anecdotes about the Prince, his temperament and his love for sports, hunting and the outdoors, his family opened up about what Philip meant to the family and to them individually. It is an unusually candid and emotional documentary; very often the Royals tend to keep their emotions in check.
We also have a tendency to judge Philip based on different portrayals of him in the media, particularly here in America. Most who know him through portrayals in such films as The Queen or TV series like The Crown, in both of which he is second banana to his wife (as I suppose is proper), we are given a portrait of a tone-deaf man giving his wife terrible advice in the days following the tragic death of the former Princess of Wales Diana, or being a bit standoffish while arguing for conservative values from a bygone era.
Nearly everyone interviewed here from his children and grandchildren to his staff remark on his sense of humor, his tendency to tease those he was close to with affection, and above all his devotion to his family. Considering his early history – his family was forced to flee Greece after a coup and he lived in exile in Britain, his family nearly penniless. He made an impression in military school and served with distinction in the Second World War, before catching the eye of a princess whom he later wed. Their marriage was, by all accounts, a good one and certainly Elizabeth leaned on her husband for support and advice throughout her reign, and he provided her with both.
The movie is replete with lots of wonderful anecdotes about Prince Philip, as well as archival footage and even some home movies – I’m sure most people don’t know this but the late Prince was an aficionado of the barbecue and worked the grill whenever he had the opportunity to, and we see him doing just that.
A biography is sometimes defined as a portrait, warts and all whereas a hagiography is completely without blemish, and the latter is true here. Then again, this was meant to be a birthday gift before it became a tribute, and neither occasion is appropriate for a tell-all exposé, For those here in the States who are fascinated by the Royals, this is absolutely indispensable. For history buffs, it has merit but should be taken in the spirit it was intended. For those looking for a complete portrait of the man, well, I’m sure he’s not going to be nominated for sainthood anytime soon but this film provides a point of view we don’t often get to see, and in that sense, it’s invaluable.
REASONS TO SEE: Plenty of archival material and family photos.
REASONS TO AVOID: About as hagiographic as one would expect this would be.
FAMILY VALUES: Suitable for all audiences.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Philip at more than 70 years was the longest-serving consort in the history of the British crown.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Discovery Plus
CRITICAL MASS: As of 01/10/22: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet; Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10