Anyone with even a basic knowledge of British Royal history will know the stories of the Tudors. Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I have almost been done to death by cinema and TV alike. What people may not be familiar with is the story of Mary Stewart, Queen of Scots. I myself remember very little from my lessons at school, in fact, rather embarrassingly, the only thing I really know about our Scottish Queen was an anecdote about her dog. It is, therefore, very refreshing to observe the somewhat familiar from a different point of view.
I apologise, but I am very conscious of the fact that almost all of my reviews so far have been along the lines of “I loved this film!” but in my defense, January is always a strong month in the movie world, and, yes, this is another film that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Mary Queen of Scots has a rather beautiful simplicity that is compelling to watch. Both Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie were captivating in their respective performances as Mary Stuart and Queen Elizabeth I.
Ronan excels as the titular character, carefully balancing the fierce, formidable and somewhat stubborn ruler on a journey to reclaim her throne with the childish and fairly naïve young women attempting to make her mark in a world dominated by men. Despite being only twenty-four years old, Saoirse Ronan has already been nominated for three Academy Awards and it easy to see why, in fact, I was a little disappointed that she wasn’t nominated this year.
There have been so many different depictions of Queen Elizabeth I but this is the first time that I can remember her being portrayed as somewhat vulnerable. Her fading beauty and reluctance to marry and provide an heir, leads to jealousy and paranoia that shines a whole new light on one of the most recognisable women in history. Although, she does not get a huge amount of screen time, when she is on screen Margot Robbie steals the show.
The two main actresses are supported by capable performances from a strong supporting cast including the likes of Guy Pearce, David Tennant, Jack Lowden and Joe Alwyn.
While I did enjoy this film and would happily watch it again, I have found it really difficult to write my review and I think that is because fundamentally there are some issues that I can ignore in viewing but not in writing.
For 16th century Britain, there is a disproportionate amount of people of colour or non-European descent and an acceptance of homosexuality that does not befit the time, overall this gives the impression that director Josie Rourke sacrificed some historical accuracies in a bid to be more politically correct. I am all for greater representation of colour, race and sexual orientation but it needs to be natural and not forced.
The story flows at a slow yet steady pace, building up until the climatic scene: the meeting of the two Queens, a meeting which historians will tell you never actually took place. I can forgive this though, because the scene was so pivotal, to me anyway. It was here that Elizabeth learnt to embrace her strengths and let go of the jealousy that she felt towards the beautiful, fertile Mary. It was here that the paranoid and vulnerable woman that we have been watching becomes the strong, admirable Queen we know and love to this day.
But, this is just one short girls opinion and that is the beauty of Cinema, it means different things to different people, and you should never let one opinion stop you from having your own. So, as always, go and see this for yourself, make up your own mind and let me know what you think.