With a dash of fortuitous timing, Diana’s Wedding has landed in the festival circuit within the same week where we all intensely care about the royal family for a short period of time. Despite what the title says, it’s certainly the opposite of a film about royalty, and especially the royal family. That the Princess of Wales was married when the film begins is only a periphery detail; a bit of historical dressing to show the extreme contrast of those royal lives and fundamentally normal ones. What the film actually is about is the character Diana, so-named because she was born near the date of that royal wedding, but the wedding story inside the film is her own, and then, that’s not chiefly the concern of the story.
It’s a love story about an imperfect family. A factory worker and his bride have been wed the very same day as the Princess, with their baby Diana in tow, a bit of a cosmic parallel, much like the film showing at festival against the particularly disparaging interview about the royal family. Within their very normal and working class upbringing, Diana is raised by volatile parents. The film is a series of vignetted memories, soaked in what feels like regrets. Family vacations gone awry. Parties that end with everyone pointing fingers. Adventures to repair the home mired by difficult arguments.
Underlying all of it is a deep sense of familial obligation. The family stays together because that’s what they do. They are madly in love. Every argument either begins or ends with the greatest pronouncement of love. It was a hell of a place to raise a kid, amidst all that chaos, but beneath the exterior of every fight and misdeed, there is a deep requited love that is shared.
The Norwegian family comedy is a best case scenario for this kind of thing. It has super fun characters. Our primary family are so lovingly created. It’s in the small details: the routines that Diana and her younger brother fall into when things get bad; the rosy nostalgia that is able to fit even in the most difficult moments; the way experiences are heightened, as through the eyes of a child, and then become intensely clear as they age. And there is a wildly fun supporting cast: the neighbors next door are absolutely hilarious. The husband across the lawn has really had it with his marriage, is always trying to awkwardly make it with Diana’s mom and other young women. His wife has become a miserable foil. Much fun is had at her expense. Their kid plays a counterpart to Diana’s upbringing, the other side of the coin, what all this chaos looks like, without the love there to change the outcome of those memories.
The point of the film is the great contrast of the classes. The royal family may have always had money. And they always put on the performance of perfection. But like the Oprah interview has shown, it is a facade for deeply concerning behavior. Meanwhile, this lower class family has no facade whatsoever. They look as problematic as they are. But underneath all that, there is a more honest kind of love. One that has been earned through the endurance of hardship. One that could also never be faked.
Diana’s Wedding is the kind of feel-good comedy that we no longer get within our own territory anymore. It’s because the comedy genre now requires a gimmick. It has to be jokes and then a high concept structure to go with them. It’s not the same in Norway. This is a straight-up slice-of-life comedy. Like the family it features, it also has no facade. Like many stories where we cycle through a series of cast for the young ones and then try and dress up the adults in messy aging makeup, the cycle of life does not always feel true. Some of the child actors are convincing, others are wrong for their characters. A steady script and constant laughs holds it all together. However chaotic the film becomes, it’s a beautiful reminder that a flawed family can still be a perfect one, it just requires the maximum amount of love. Likewise, this flawed comedy can also be a very good one, because it is also overflowing with love.