Film Review: Mary Queen of Scots

Synopsis:

Rivals in power and love, Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I of England stake their claim as female regents in a misogynistic, male-dominated world.

Our Review:

Newly widowed, Queen Mary Stuart (Saoirse Ronan) returns to rule a Scotland whose Protestant population, led by John Knox (David Tenant), aren’t happy with having a Catholic queen.

The charismatic and ruthless Mary reaches out to her cousin Queen Elizabeth I of England (Margot Robbie) to negotiate rights to the English throne but both monarchs’ power-hungry advisors keep them at odds.

Each Queen’s privy council attempts to control the strong-willed women with murderous machinations, plots and betrayals, which come to a head when Mary marries an Englishman and gives birth to a son who could become king of both Scotland and England.

Early Oscar buzz for Ronan is well deserved, with a captivating and nuanced performance from the Irish actress. The intimacy between Ronan and Robbie is compelling despite Mary and Elizabeth not sharing a screen for 90 percent of the movie – as Mary says to her lady-in-waiting, “Only another Queen would understand.”

Mary and Elizabeth are the only interesting characters in the film, with the scheming men surrounding the queens seemingly interchangeable. If you’re not familiar with English and Scottish Renaissance history, it’s can be difficult to tell your Dudleys from your Darnleys and it doesn’t help that at least five men are named James.

The film struggles with depiction of the passage of time, as Elizabeth ages significantly over the main six years over which the majority of the film takes place while Mary remains fresh-faced until her death, 26 years after she originally returns to Scotland. While the inconsistencies in aging is revealed to be a plot device in the final scenes, it makes interpreting the passing of time difficult especially as the monarch rarely share screen time. 

Final Verdict: 3.5

Director:

Josie Rourke

Cast:

Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, David Tennant, Jack Lowden

Film Rating:

MA15+

If you liked the movie, try:

Elizabeth: The Golden Age, The Other Boleyn Girl, Marie Antoinette, The King’s Speech

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