Mary Queen of Scots review – Saoirse Ronan rules over political drama

the Guardian | 11/16/2018 | Benjamin Lee


There are two differently mounted yet thematically similar films arriving this awards season that focus on female monarchs and how their relationships with other women led to profound change. In Yorgos Lanthimos’s bawdy, brutal comedy The Favourite, the mental state of Queen Anne is weaponised by two women vying for her affections and, in turn, increased power in both her palace and the country. In Josie Rourke’s far more conventional, yet slickly entertaining Mary Queen of Scots, we see how the titular character clashes with Queen Elizabeth for control with the fates of many hanging in the balance. Tonally and visually, the two couldn’t be more different yet they both contain familiar observations about the swift sadism of life at the very top and how so much of the tension between these women was orchestrated by the men around them.

3 out of 5 stars.

Life - Queen - Anne - Time - Dynamic

While the life of Queen Anne has historically received minimal screen time, the more obviously cinematic dynamic between Mary and Elizabeth has inspired a number of retellings. We’ve seen Katharine Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave and Samantha Morton play Mary while Glenda Jackson, Helen Mirren and Cate Blanchett have taken on Elizabeth, film-makers ever-fascinated by the difficult bond shared by the pair. Arguably it’s a tale that’s probably been told enough but there’s something undeniably tantalising about the idea of House of Cards developer Beau Willimon bringing his brand of murky corridor scheming to 16th-century politics. As with his Netflix show, there’s both a tight grasp of devilish powerplay and a slight over-reliance on soapy theatrics although the balance here mostly works. Think of it as more season one than season six.

After spending most of her childhood in France, Mary (Saoirse Ronan) is arriving back to Scotland as an 18-year-old widow. There are concerns about her reappearance from...
(Excerpt) Read more at: the Guardian
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