Posted Jan 16 2019

Mary, Queen Of Scots - This Tale Of Two Queens Movie Does Not Rock

Dir: Josie Rourke

Starring Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Guy Pearce, David Tennant, Martin Compston, Joe Alwyn, Adrian Lester, Gemma Chan, Ian Hart

And here’s the Cliff Notes version – Ronan and Robbie, as the “sister” Queens are both terrific; Rourke’s film notably less so.

Ronan’s Mary is by far the dominant character and performance, (it’s kinda in the title), but Robbie – in what is very clearly the supporting role – is more than a match when required to be so.

But the main problem is, Rourke’s film is so desperate to be contemporary and relevant that it reduces this historic tale, of when Scotland’s Mary faced off against England’s pox-ridden Elizabeth for domination of the British Isles, to a story of sexual politics, ignoring the wider field of political intrigue and duplicity that fuelled these events. As such, it is content to be the “#MeToo” revisionist feminist version of history, more than a thorough look at this story. Obviously this approach has its place here – but there is no need to play that card in such a heavy-handed way as the director does here, all but bludgeoning her audience into submission, where some subtlety wouldn’t have gone amiss.

On the male side, there’s also an awful lot of beardy acting going on here. Everyone is awash with facial hair, and most of them seem to be having a good time with it. And it’s fair to say, that if Guy Pearce is all moustache-twirling connivance, then David Tennant is full of Rasputin hair pulling and scenery chewing – and both are loving it.

The climactic moment, when the Queens finally face off, is both the film’s finest scene, and its most annoying. Set in a washhouse, the two move between beautifully lit billowing sheets, their visages always just out of sight of one another. Which beggars the question - why? The only answer being the director obviously thought it looked cool. Beyond that, there is no thematic reason for the staging of this moment. And when the sheets are finally pushed aside and the two face off, the two actresses are electrifying going up against each other, bringing an energy that the rest of the film sorely lacks. Both are defiant, magnetic and empathetic in a way that is never present in the rest of Rourke’s ultimately disappointing film.

Plus, the film’s finale, apparently set 25 years into Mary’s incarceration, shows everyone looking not a day older. Something that could be forgiven by an audience if the film proved to be more engaging. But it simply isn’t.

Nice pair of Queens, but hardly a strong hand.


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