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Mary Queen of Scots (R)




Mary Queen of Scots (R)
Film Reviews by Amy

01/10/19



 Lady regnants duke it out in Mary Queen of Scots, a movie that was more fun in its trailer form.

In the north, we have Mary (Saoirse Ronan), returning to Scotland to serve as its queen after her French king husband dies. She's a Catholic in a nation with a significant Protestant population and, as the great-granddaughter of Henry VII of England, she also has a strong claim to the throne of predominantly Protestant England.

In the south, we have Elizabeth (Margot Robbie), queen of England, Protestant and a cousin of Mary's (Henry VIII, Elizabeth's father, is Mary's great-uncle). Unmarried, Elizabeth has no heir, which means her throne could pass to Mary or Mary's children, should she have any, on Elizabeth's death. And some in England would be happy to hasten that death to put a Catholic back on the throne.

Each queen's country is full of religious division, under threat from foreign interference and unstable from the succession uncertainty created by childless monarchs, but what really keeps them up at night is lurve. Elizabeth has a boyfriend in Robert Dudley (Joe Alwyn) but can't marry him for a bunch of reasons this movie never really gets into but hey that's what Wikipedia is for. She considers foisting Dudley on Mary (or Mary on Dudley), probably as a means of controlling them both, but also doesn't really like the idea of sharing her boyfriend. Mary meanwhile meets Henry Darnley (Jack Lowden), a Stuart like Mary and a Tudor cousin, who is dreamy and a flirt and, bonus, an English citizen as Elizabeth has requested. Unfortunately for Mary, he turns out not to be super concerned with fidelity or loyalty.

I wish this movie were 50 percent more serious and history-nerdy about its subject or 80 percent more nuts. Did you see the CW show Reign, also about Mary Queen of Scots? Where the girls wore entertainingly anachronistic dresses and Megan Follows (OG Anne Shirley from the CBC’s 1980s Anne of Green Gables) played Catherine de' Medici? That but bigger and louder was kind of where I was hoping this movie would go — Cate Blanchett's Elizabeth but with an extra queen; a movie version of The Tudors: The Next Generation, with yelling and flouncy dresses and a faster pace. The Favourite but in the 1500s. That would have been fine.

As it is, Mary Queen of Scots isn't big and silly enough for its clumsy plod through a history packed with so many indistinguishable grim-faced, hairy lords. The movie has two actresses who are fun when given a chance to be regally incensed but then doesn't give them enough opportunities to really get their “off with their heads!” on. (As for capturing the complexities of life as a woman and a ruler during this era: a little but not really.) And the movie spends so much time telling us what strong singular ladies these women are that it then feels silly to wade through all the boy drama foisted upon these two rulers.

That Mary Queen of Scots manages to be an extremely lukewarm kind of fun is due entirely to the efforts of its actresses. B-

Rated R for some violence and sexuality, according to the MPAA. Directed by Josie Rourke with a screenplay by Beau Willimon, Mary Queen of Scots is two hours and four minutes long and is distributed by Focus Features.

Amy Diaz






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