Directed by: Josie Rourke
Written by: Beau Willimon
Based on the Book, “Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart” by John Guy
Produced by: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Jack Lowden, Joe Alwyn, Gemma Chan, Martin Compston, Ismael Cordova, Brendan Coyle, Ian Hart, Adrian Lester, James McArdle, with David Tennant, and Guy Pearce.
In the same vein of Elizabeth (1998) staring Golden Globe winner for Best Actress, Cate Blanchett, Mary, Queen of Scots is an intricate film of politics, love, betrayal, stupidity and power.
Writer, Beau Willimon was the creator of House of Cards; we get the same intrigue as the award winning series here but set in the ‘resplendent’ (as Queen Elizabeth (Margot Robbie) is described by her constant companion and lover Robert Dudley (Joe Alwyn)) rolling lands of Scotland and England, to jewels sparkling in candle-lit rooms filled with gentle-women and plotting aristocracy, where Elizabeth acknowledges the treachery of men and her necessity to become one in order to remain on the throne.
There’s a lot to unpack, being one of those lengthy (2 hours 3 minutes) epic films; but the way the film is shown with Mary (Saoirse Ronan) speaking to the audience, watching herself at times, telling her tale. And the symbolism of Elizabeth burning an intricate portrait of red poppies, her obsessive creating of red flowers flowing across the floor like blood from her empty womb hold the attention, to be absorbed into the tragedy and intrigue of the story.
There’s so much attention to detail here, portraying Mary in a different light to the general condemnation of history; the tragedy of being sentenced to death by beheading, ordered by her half-sister, Elizabeth – her reputation, based on unfounded rumours and lies of sexual depravity and betrayal spread by her own Council. A reputation that has followed Mary into the ages.
The film, based on the detailed historical book, “Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart” written by John Guy shows there’s so much more to be told about this powerful woman.
‘There’s a time for wisdom, love. And there’s a time for strength,’ Mary tells her half-brother, a statement backed by a cold, icy stare shown so well by Saoirse Ronan.
And Margot Robbie shows a continued depth and maturity as an actress in her role as Queen Elizabeth.
This is Josie Rouke’s directional debut, her success here, the ability to show the depth and complicated relationship between the two queens with Mary returning home from France after being married at 16 only to become a widow at 18, to return as Queen of Scotland with rightful claim to England, the power in her blood as a Stuart. A power she has to continually fight for against the male dominated world of 1587. Where women are condemned as evil, especially returning as Catholic in a land whose foundations rest on the Church of Scotland.
As a Protestant, Queen Elizabeth has forsaken the ties of the Catholic Church, renouncing the Papacy, yet, she struggles to renounce her sister.
The careful confrontation and maneuvering for power between the two fiery sisters is fascinating to watch.
Not quite capturing the embodiment of the steal and soft that Cate Blanchett managed to bring to Queen Elizabeth, there are strong performances here, the success of the film not only an intriguing story, but the balance between the two powerful protagonists of Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth: where only a queen could understand the burden of ruling a kingdom while remaining each other’s greatest threat.