“If you love only those who love you, what reward can you expect?” Matt. 5:46
In a nutshell, The Queen is the behind-the-scenes story of how the royal family and prime minister of Britain reacted to the death of Princess Diana Spencer in late summer 1997, focusing primarily on the experience of Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren, in an Oscar-worthy performance).
In this movie, we see a conflicted Elizabeth who struggles with her emotions in the wake of this disaster; she keeps her sorrow at the death of her daughter-in-law hidden beneath feelings of anger (towards the divorce from her son a year earlier), jealousy (towards Diana who seems more popular than the Queen even after fifty years on the throne), and propriety (that is, keeping quiet and not giving into the demands of her subjects).
While the goings-on of the royal family are far from our own, we, too, can go through very similar emotions and events: Like Elizabeth, we struggle with compassion when bad things happen to people we don’t particularly like. Likewise, we struggle with public displays of emotion in a world that proclaims, “never let ‘em see you sweat.” We also struggle with doing the right thing, going the extra mile, or defending the defenseless because we worry about how it might make us look.
It is an internal battle between looking good and doing good.
In the gospels, Christ and his disciples are constantly “looking bad.” They break the purity laws in public, and eat alongside lepers, sinners, and the lower classes. But Christ does not apologize for this; in fact, he encourages others to do the same.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where reality television has made us nervous of how we look in public. We worry more about how we look than how we act. In this film, the Queen captures this experience as she and her family seem to care more about propriety and image than compassion and emotion.
For Elizabeth, this is further compounded by deep-seeded anger and jealousy. But that makes the need to love and reach out even more important.
In the gospels, Jesus says to us, “If you love only those who love you, what reward can you expect? Surely the tax-gatherers do as much as that. And if you greet only your friends, what is there extraordinary about that? Even the pagans do as much. There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds.” (Matt. 5:46-48)
Jesus challenges us to love anyone and everyone we meet, no matter if we like them or not – in fact, he wants us to love even more those we don’t like at all. Even when we are faced with tragedy and death, like the Queen in this movie, we must never forget that we are called to value emotion over image, and loving people over liking them.