Review: Mary Queen of Scots

Billy Lamond reviews the latest historical take on Mary Queen of Scots

Billy Lamond
11th February 2019
Image: YouTube

Josie Rourke’s Mary Queen of Scots stars Saoirse Ronan as Mary I of Scotland and Margot Robbie as Elizabeth I of England in a directorial debut that has a lot going for it, yet somehow still failed to impress. Mary returns to Scotland From France where her husband, King Francis II has died. As a Catholic woman in a patriarchal and staunchly protestant Scotland, Mary’s position is precarious from the start with the ominous John Knox (David Tennant) opposing her right to rule despite her religious tolerance. If her domestic troubles weren’t enough, Mary has to build diplomatic relations England, a task made all the more difficult by the threat she poses to her cousin Elizabeth’s throne. What follows is half an hour’s worth of courtly and diplomatic intrigue, and four hours’ worth of melodrama stretched and squeezed into a two-hour long movie.

An average historical drama which couldn't live up to its potential.

The cast is strong, especially the two leads. Margot Robbie, looking almost unrecognisable in her makeup and prosthetic nose, is able to give a complex and compelling performance as England’s conflicted monarch. Saoirse Ronan does a similarly admirable job but is let down by the slightly one-dimensional writing of her character. In fact, most of the characters are quite one-dimensional, which deprives the relationships between them, and therefore the plot, of most of its emotional weight. There are a few visually spectacular scenes drawing parallels between the two queens, emphasising the ‘sisterhood’ they espouse earlier in the movie (but which, like most of the characters, is never fully developed), however the rest of the film is fairly drab, with a surprising lack of colour being worn by the richest nobles of the English and Scottish courts. While the film could be criticised for its historical inaccuracy, as a historical drama it could be forgiven for taking creative license to make its story more entertaining. However, taking such an interesting story about an intelligent and powerful woman like Mary I and making it so dull is harder to ignore. Overall the film ends up being another average historical drama which couldn’t live up to its potential. My verdict, wait till it’s on Netflix.

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

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