HBO Original review: Heed the warning and relive the trauma as never before seen footage in Ed Perkins’ stunning doc ‘THE PRINCESS’ flags the danger of history repeating itself.

‘The HBO Original documentary film THE PRINCESS is an intimate and immersive look at the life of Princess Diana, directed by Academy Award® nominee Ed Perkins (“Black Sheep” “Tell Me Who I Am”) and produced by Lightbox, Academy Award®-winning Simon Chinn (“Man on Wire” “Searching for Sugar Man”) and Emmy®-winning Jonathan Chinn (“LA92” HBO’s “Tina”). The film debuts on SATURDAY, AUGUST 13 (8:00-9:50 p.m. ET/PT) on HBO, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of Princess Diana’s tragic death, and will be available to stream on HBO Max. THE PRINCESS had its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. HBO Documentary Films presents THE PRINCESS, in association with SKY, produced by Lightbox. Directed by Ed Perkins; produced by Simon Chinn and Jonathan Chinn; editors, Jinx Godfrey and Daniel Lapira; co-producer, Vanessa Tovell. For HBO: coordinating producer, Anna Klein; executive producers, Nancy Abraham and Lisa Heller.


The precise moment I realized what was happening in the opening footage of The Princess, my blood ran cold. The tragedy of Diana, Princess of Wales is something I’ve always held close to my heart. I remember the morning of her death like it was yesterday. My mother entered my bedroom, speechless, holding up the headline on the front page. I had Princess Diana paper dolls as a child. The booklet contained a replica of the crown she wore at her wedding. I mourned her like so many across the globe, understanding her cultural impact even more as my father and I watched her funeral live. I’d never seen him weep before that day. 

The film chronicles Diana’s life in the media from the days before her engagement until her horrific death. There are no talking heads, no overarching narration, simply thousands of hours of archival footage edited together with care and great intention. Studying the body language of Diana, Charles, and the royal family is fascinating. The commentary comes in the form of media voiceovers that are equally adoring and scathing. Feeling as if we know Diana and understanding the revelations that have since come to light, I was seething as I witnessed the treatment of an uncaring husband and the fickle media. 

The score is breathtaking. The editing is an award-worthy triumph. Watching the downward spiral of a young woman thrown to the wolves is daunting. I found myself shaking my head, filled with sadness and anger at those who failed spectacularly to protect her. And therein lies the double-edged sword of this film. Our obsession with a woman so special and fascinating makes us accomplices. The Princess is a cautionary tale as relevant today as it was then. Maybe more so. Harry and Meghan deserve more respect than we ever showed his mother and equal parts adoration for the change they are trying desperately to implement in a family stuck in the dark ages. We, the audience and fellow human beings, must remind ourselves to take a step back and let them live their lives in peace. 

HBO ORIGINAL DOCUMENTARY THE PRINCESS 
Debuting SATURDAY on HBO & HBO Max (8:00-9:50 p.m. ET/PT)

About Liz Whittemore

Liz grew up in northern Connecticut and was memorizing movie dialogue from Shirley Temple to A Nightmare on Elm Street at a very early age. She will watch just about any film all the way through (no matter how bad) just to prove a point. A loyal New Englander, a lover of Hollywood, and true inhabitant of The Big Apple.