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Mary Queen of Scots (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 4, 2020

Mary Queen of Scots


Starring Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Jack Lowden, Joe Alwyn, David Tennant, Guy Pearce, Gemma Chan, Martin Compston, Ismael Cruz Cordova, Ian Hart, Brendan Coyle, Adrian Lester, James McArdle, Angela Bain, Richard Cant, Guy Rhys, Thom Petty, Izuka Hoyle, John Ramm, Abby Cassidy, Shalisha James-Davis, Nathan East and Simon Russell Beale.

Screenplay by Beau Willimon.

Directed by Josie Rourke.

Distributed by Focus Features. 123 minutes. Rated R.

Off with her head! No, this is not Alice in Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts. It is where we start this movie, 1587 England, moments before Mary Queen of Scots is beheaded.

Since we cannot go forward in her story from this point, the film, Mary Queen of Scots then leaps backwards in time to chronicle the life of Mary Stuart (played by Saiorse Ronin). It focuses on her tumultuous power negotiation / relationship with England’s Queen Elizabeth (played by Margot Robbie). This starts in 1561, when Mary returns from France after the death of her husband, the King of France.

Both Ronin and Robbie give powerful performances as two remarkably strong women from this period in history.

Mary Queen of Scots is portrayed as young, beautiful, clever, courageous, bold, and tolerant.  The film provides the back history. At 15, she was married off to the French monarch and reigned at his side until his death three years later. At 18, she returned to Scotland to re-claim her bloodlines crown, but all loyalties had moved from Catholicism to Protestant English rule. When advising her council of her plan – to allow all to practice religion as they liked and that she planned to rule with tolerance – the Protestant faction split off saying that they would not support a rule that didn’t denounce Catholicism and the riches of Rome.

Mary is portrayed as savvy beyond her years as she tries to stay one step ahead of the treacherous men trying to manipulate the crown from her. She proves to be a worthy adversary to cousin Elizabeth, who has been forced to lead a life without marriage. In turn, without an heir, any man could seek to take the role of king.

Mary wins the race to an heir, albeit with a husband unworthy of her attentions. Henry (played by Jack Lowden) charmed her with his… attentions. Basically, with an unmarried orgasm (that is shown on screen for a considerable amount of time), she chooses him as her second husband. However, he is a drunkard with his own ambitions for the crown and an appetite for Mary’s male minstrel and friend, leading to scandal and heartbreak.

There are many times in the film where Mary out maneuvers the men trying to force her rule. But in the end, she must rely on her cousin Elizabeth to provide her trust and safety.

Robbie once again chooses a role where she does not rely on her beauty. Her Elizabeth is marred by the Pox – both in its active blistered stages and in its scarring. She ages through the stresses of her station, her inability to produce an heir and watching her nation shed so much blood through the ages.

Ronin plays a fierce Mary, but her fierceness is balanced with compassion. Her youth and beauty give cause to Elizabeth’s jealousy. However, in a powerful final monologue, Elizabeth sheds her jealousy with a final blow. Ronin is kind, and savvy, but perhaps too trusting. She puts her faith in her friends, her husband, her half-brother, and Elizabeth.

While I am not a huge fan of the genre, Mary Queen of Scots was entertaining for my watch and was really enjoyed by my movie viewing mate… who is a fan of the genre. I had a few jaw-dropping moments that made me want to read up and fact check the story in the future.

If you are a fan, enjoy. If you’re are the friend of a fan, it’s worth viewing on the big screen. Scotland films beautifully and the cinematography is stunning.

Bonnie Paul

Copyright ©2018 All rights reserved. Posted: December 14, 2018.

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