W.E. is a film directed by Madonna, which was a box office flop and which was panned by critics. Despite this, I knew I had to watch it at somepoint. Now I have, I am so very glad I did.
I am by no means a fan of Madonna, but I know that I (and so many others) share her fascination with Wallis Simpson, the woman who King Edward VIII loved so much that he gave up the throne for her.
W.E. tells the story of Wally, a woman living in the modern day who is unhappily married and desperate for a baby. She is named after Wallis Simpson and becomes enthralled by their story, which she uncovers on daily trips to Sotheby’s to look at items of the couple’s which are up for auction. Wallis and Edward’s relationship unfurls through flashback scenes, the lives of both Wallis and Wally having eerie parallels.
Ultimately, this is a story about finding true love. Edward VIII may have given up his throne for Wallis, but what about her, what did she leave behind to be with him? I love how the film imagines this, with some very intense, claustrophic scenes between Wallis and Edward as they face their uncertain future. Was it really Happily Ever After for them? I don’t believe it was. Yes, Wallis may have been a social climber, but I think she got more than she bargained for.
The cast feautures many familiar faces… James D’Arcy from Broadchurch, Katie McGrath from Merlin, Laurence Fox from Lewis, even Mrs Crawley’s suitor from Downton Abbey! I LOVE Natalie Dormer and she plays the Queen Mother so playfully, but Andrea Riseborough as Wallis is mesmerising. She stole every scene; her accent and mannerisms evoked Wallis so well.
I love the scene where Wallis and Edward meet for the very first time. The dancing, the music, the dresses… it’s such a sumptuous scenario and I just want to jump into that era and go to a party! I wasn’t keen on the modern day story at all though, and the film could have been much stronger if it had been just a historical drama about Wallis and Edward. Wally’s hallucinations of Wallis did nothing for me (except more screen time for Andrea) and did she really have to be named Wally?!
All in all, I highly recommend this film, if you can just go with the flow through the modern day story because the historical scenes more than make up for it. If, like me, you are fascinated by this relationship, I highly recommend reading That Woman by Anne Sebba. I definitely intend on reading more about Wallis now I have seen this film.
Have you ever really enjoyed a film that flopped at the box office?