Mary Queen of Scots can not be 100% historically correct, but I do not really care. When dealing with events…
Mary Queen of Scots can not be 100% historically correct, but I do not really care. When dealing with events and people who lived 500 years ago, we can forgive that all facts are corrected. Hell, we have enough trouble to get the facts right about our leaders who live right now. What this movie does very well, no matter what historians are, is that it’s a crackerjack drama about two strong independent women who make their strong voices heard in a world that (and still) is manipulated by shady men. In turn, #MeToo and Time’s Up play in a way we never thought possible.
The success of this film version of the often-pronounced rivalry in this case puts it all in the hands of smart women both in front of and behind the scenes. Yes, it has been filmed earlier – especially 1936 Mary, Queen of Scotland, with Katharine Hepburn; 1971 Mary Queen of Scots, with Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson; and more recently in Elizabeth, The Golden Age with Cate Blanchett and Samantha Morton. Now we have the very old-fashioned and wonderful Saoirse Ronan who takes a whack on Mary opposite the as nice Margot Robbie as Elizabeth I, turned here into more of a supportive trip but a very effective one to that. Behind the camera that marks her first movie ever Josie Rourke, the outstanding artistic director of England’s famous theater company Donmar and a veteran of many stage productions. She embodies herself in making this costume drama alive for today’s audience in a way that I totally did not expect.
The script is from Beau Willimon (based on John Guys’s book Queen of Scots: The True Story by Mary Stuart) best known for his Netflix series House of Cards, which deals about all the manipulations behind the scenes and current DC politics, and he has found a way to make the same types of dynamics live alive in a historical context here. And yes, you can count on a direct confrontation between these two strong-minded women who, as a matter of fact, never actually occurred in their real life, but are dramatically necessary to gain the essence of this story and of course have been a staple in past values. As I said, I do not care about 100% accuracy. I just want a story that makes right of these women and keeps my interest in them and their travails of time. You want to know what it could have been.
Ronan plays Maria, who was the queen of France at the age of 16 and widowed two years later when England and Scotland merged, as it were. Robbie is Queen Elizabeth I in England, determined to rule over the new configuration even when she has to deal with Mary’s emerging competition, who believes she is entitled to leadership duties because of her own legacy. This is the essence of their complex rivalry, and it is complicated by the secondary male characters that are not displayed in the best light. They include Mary’s husband (Jack Lowden) and Lord Dudley (Joe Alwyn) who temporarily also reside in another current periodical, Favorite.
Guy Pearce like William Cecil and Gemma Chan as Bess of Hardwicke also have their moments in the supporting role, but this movie belongs to Ronan and Robbie, both up to the task of a story where Mary is determined to overthrow her own cousin, risking everything to achieve her goals (the very open stage tips her hat wherever this goes, unless you know your English history). Ronan, who is only 24 but already has three Oscar nominations for her name, is enlightening in a role she understandably struggled to play, and Robbie continues to show her plays in each subsequent trip, especially in other scenes where Elizabeth is hit by a scary case of chickenpox at the age of 29. It is well worth watching just for these performances. Max Richter’s score is ace, by the way.
The producers are Working Title’s Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Debra Hayward. Focus features release it on Friday. Check out my video review by clicking the link above.
Are you planning to see Mary Queen of Scots? Let us know what you think.