W.E. Review

Film Still
  • W.E. film still


An arrogant vanity project rendered laughable by its kitschy sycophancy.

This prissy, self-important companion piece to The King’s Speech tells part of the true story of Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough), the brassy Baltimore socialite who threw a spanner in the British monarchy by eloping with King Edward VIII (a dashing James D’Arcy) in the late '30s.

His abdication and her public vilification were the hot gossip of the time, but Madonna (making her second outing as co-writer/director) isn’t fussed about contextualising the socio-political ripples of their scandalous affair. Instead, she hotfoots it to the mid '90s, where a fictional Manhattan housewife named Wally (Abbie Cornish) finds a way out of her abusive domestic bell jar courtesy of an ivory-tinkling Russian security guard (Oscar Isaac).

This incessant to-and-fro narrative tiering is imprudent, not least because Wally's plight has a great deal more dramatic merit than that of her cold, razor-taloned counterpart. In escaping her husband's malicious clutches Wally shows considerable guts. By comparison Wallis' actions seem entirely conniving and selfish (although they are validated, somewhat clumsily, by flashbacks of her own domestic agonies). It's all in the name of love, of course, but a love we never made to invest in.

You would be forgiven for expecting that an infamous 20th century love story that rocked an empire might make for compelling cinema. But the maddening extent of Madonna's blundering is such that you won't care whether Wallis and Edward's romance sinks or swims. In fact, during one sickly beachside rendez-vous you'll be praying for an unseasonably strong tide to roar in and drag the whole shoddy mess under.

Madonna's poorly received directorial debut, 2008's Filth and Wisdom, was largely ignored, but there's no avoiding this triumphant wet guff, such is its pungance and so eye-stinging its impact. As far as her film career is concerned, this is a real step back – and that's saying something.

Of its many shortcomings, perhaps the most insulting thing about W.E. is its arrogance. But this serious film, laden with ‘look at me’ visuals – grainy close-ups, excessive soft focus – and reeking of vanity project egotism, is only rendered laughable by its kitschy sycophancy.


Madge takes on a sizzling 20th century love scandal.



Laughably feeble portrait of a complex romance.


In Retrospect

Maddeningly incompetent.

Out This Week
Still Showing

View 11 comments

Adam LWLies

3 years ago
Hi Tim, no comment has been deleted on this post.

I'd be keen to discuss the film's intention with you, if you would care to elaborate.

Adam LWLies

3 years ago
Christian, have you seen the film?

I always seek to be objective, and was actually rather looking forward to this having not read much about the film but having some prior knowledge of the true story, as my Anticipation score reflects.


3 years ago
Did you even try to view the film objectively?

I'm sure it the "vanity" would have been labeled as "brilliant nuances" had the same film been directed by an obscure, European director or a more famous auteur.


3 years ago
Very inarticulate review that doesn't even seem to grasp the intention of the film.

Also, noticed you deleted a comment disagreeing with the review. Why can you be critical of the film, but someone else cannot disagree with your opinion? A bit childish, really...

Kreega Bondoola

3 years ago
I do appreciate your honest views on films that we are otherwise told are "amazing", "remarkable", "if I could give a film 10 stars..." etc (and not for a moment do I expect that W.E. is any better than you suggest) but please deal with your spelling. The letters 'e' and 'a' are not interchangaeble.

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
interchangaeble, lol

Le regle de jour

3 years ago
Yet another so-called critic throwing their toys out of the pram because Madonna has made a movie. If anyone else had done so the bile-factor would be negligable. It's not the greatest film ever made but it does pretty much what it says on the tin, its only real crime being Madonna's name attached to the director's credit.
Please start reviewing films as if you've actually watched them rather than using them as a nail to hang your pre-conceived predjudices on. Or get another job!

Adam LWLies

3 years ago
Please consider the level of professionalism and subjectivity that most critics (this one included) approach each and every review before making kneejerk generalisations and assumptions.

There is absolutely nothing pre-conceived about my dislike of this film.

Anton Bitel

3 years ago
"its only real crime being Madonna's name attached to the director's credit"
that is not its only crime, but usually the director must be held at least in part responsible for a superficial mess of a film like this one.


3 years ago


3 years ago
This review is why I love LWL; they tell the truth. Not only do they tell the truth (or what is considered to be the truth by a PROFESSIONAL), they tell it with finesse, style and undeniable substance. It takes great courage to write and publish such a review. There is undeniable skill in this writing and reviewing. This is a critic's view so they will be critical and this is truly reflected with unreserved honesty and pure expectations.
Comments are closed.