Mary Queen of Scots: Film Review

The subject matter of Mary Queen of Scots isn’t exactly my bag but I had to see it because I love Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie – and boy did they deliver.

Ronan is Mary Stuart, who has returned home to Scotland from France to reclaim her throne following the death of her husband. She faces a power struggle and wants to be named successor of the throne in England, but the English Queen, Elizabeth I (Robbie), refuses to allow it. Matters become more problematic for Mary in Scotland when she marries Lord Darnley (Jack Lowden) and gives birth to a child, the heir to the throne in Scotland – but also in England if Elizabeth doesn’t produce a child. The rest of movie follows Mary struggling to keep onto her crown as her husband, her half-brother James and a number of fired council members (like David Tennant) plot against her.

I am not an historian so I cannot possibly say how accurate this is to real life but my gut feeling tells me not much. I imagine the bare bones of the story – who lived and died etc – are there but it’s taken liberties with the rest. We already know that Mary and Elizabeth never met face to face – historians were pretty vocal about this when the trailer came out, and I reckon they’ll have plenty more to say when they see it. What I’m saying is that you shouldn’t treat it as a straight biopic but a fictional drama inspired by true events.

It took me a while to get into it in the beginning as it was basically just back and forth between the two royals as they try to reach agreeable terms. There was a bit too much political maneouvering and things got a bit repetitive and slightly dull, just hearing them both being constantly advised by their male counsels. However, things stepped up a gear with the marriage and the birth of Mary’s son – which brought about a great shift in power and became super gripping and dramatic and I was shocked at some of the turns the story took.

Ronan is reliably excellent at every turn – the four Oscar nominations to her name is a testament to that – and she was just sensational here. I am shocked she hasn’t received more award nominations because her performance was very moving and her Scottish accent seemed convincing to me. She is torn in so many directions and has so many people who would love to see her fall but she is brave and determined and refuses to give up. Robbie isn’t in it as much as I would have expected but she does a lot with not much time. She sheds her beautiful image to play the vulnerable pockmarked woman who doesn’t want to be involved in such dealings. Guy Pearce is also excellent as her advisor.

I’m glad this was directed by a woman – Josie Rourke – and you can definitely tell. It would be interesting to know if every male character was genuinely an absolute asshole out to steal Mary’s power and usurp her. The only decent one was Robert Dudley (Joe Alwyn) and he didn’t get much to do after the first half hour. The male characters all seemed rather one note which is a shame but I guess that is usually what happens with female ones in medieval dramas.

Mary Queen of Scots is worth a watch for the gripping historical tale and the two lead performances.

In cinemas from Friday 18th January

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  1. […] stars, Alwyn is showing real promise with his small roles in good films (like The Favourite and Mary Queen of Scots) while Troye Sivan, who is best known as a singer, really surprised with his emotional depth and it […]

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