Mary Queen of Scots – Review (with Spoilers)

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Mary Queen of Scots reminds you of how different the world would be if men knew how to stay in their lane.

Director(s) Josie Rourke
Written By Beau Willimon
Date Released 12/21/2018
Genre(s) Drama
Good If You Like Period Dramas

Women Fighting The Patriarchy

Noted Cast
Mary Saoirse Ronan
Elizabeth Margot Robbie

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Mary Queen of Scots‘ Summary (Ending on 2nd Page)

It’s 1561 and the recently widowed Mary has return home to Scotland as queen and her southern cousin, Elizabeth, is already being warned about her presence. However, while the men worry and threat over their loss of power, Mary is trying to find love and Elizabeth? Well, she simply wants peace. Especially since the crown weighs heavy and she finds herself losing her own being to it. So to be dragged into a war between the only queen similar to herself, in close proximity at that, is not something she desires.

However, being that Mary sees herself as the true heir to the throne, both she and her envoys say and do things which push Elizabeth’s buttons. Some things are forgiven, for the sake of peace. But forgiveness is finite and there comes a point where Elizabeth must decide what does she care about more? Her title, her legacy, her kingdom, or a connection which could be more a liability than an asset.


It Brings Interest To the Real Queen Mary

Saoirse Ronan (Mary) getting her portrait painted.
Saoirse Ronan (Mary)

When it comes to royalty in the UK, arguably Queen Elizabeth, either the I or II, is what predominately gets featured, alongside Queen Victoria. However, as for those who didn’t sit on the English throne, we don’t hear much about. Queen Mary, for an example, is often just presented as an adversary in popular media and not much else. But in a film which keeps Elizabeth as a strong role but uses her name to help introduce Mary, it is hard to not wonder more about her life.

For example, as the film does, it pushes you to compare and contrast her attempts to be a female head of state vs. Elizabeth. Also, considering the civil wars and betrayals of her life, in the film at least, it leads you to wonder what is the truth and what is just dramatics? Particularly since there are times in her life that seem to beg for multiple movies and shows for the amount of backstabbing is ridiculous.

The Buildup To Mary & Elizabeth Meeting

It isn’t until, maybe, the last 20 or so minutes Mary and Elizabeth aren’t using envoys to speak to one another but instead are face to face. The build to this is both beautiful to watch and a tad bit devastating. It’s beautiful in the sense of seeing two women control kingdoms, be political, and do so with their heads held high. Yet, it is devastating for Mary brings the idea that a woman couldn’t have it all.

In fact, Elizabeth says multiple times how she had to become a man, lose her femininity, to rule proper. Which, as you see Mary try to rule from a place of love compared to Elizabeth who rules by logic when possible, also with listening to her counsel, you see a stark difference. Also, it pushes you to remember, as much as men can weather scandals and be fools, absolutely terrible kings, women aren’t given the same length of rope to hang themselves. As seen with Mary, there is no rope but swords and knives poking at your dress. Each one waiting for you to make the wrong move so that your own spilled blood could be seen as your fault.

On The Fence

It Pushes You To Wish Only One Woman Was The Focus vs. Going Back And Forth

I’d argue we don’t have to complimentary performances in Mary Queen of Scots. Instead, Ronan and Robbie are competing with one another. Almost as if this is the role which could lead to more period dramas which would allow them to stretch their muscles. So, even though they only share one scene, it is like they are in two separate movies competing in the specialty box office.

In doing so, they almost cancel out one another. You get two tales, connected by ones fear of the other, that are like two raging hurricanes dancing around one another. There is Ronan’s Mary who, because her story isn’t oversaturated, you’re invested in for it feels like new information about a historical figure. One who is but a footnote in Queen Elizabeth I’s history. Yet, there is also Robbie who may spend the entire movie worrying about what Mary is doing in Scotland but Robbie is pushing herself in ways we haven’t seen.

Thus making what arguably, on paper, could be seen as a supporting role into one which feels like it is a leading one. Making it where, these two don’t seem to be part of the same movie, working together towards the same end. There is a cold war in which Robbie wins strictly due to the film following history.

Overall: Positive (Worth Seeing) | Purchase, Rent, Get Tickets, or Merchandise On (Fandango/ Amazonir?source=bk&t=amaall0c 20&bm id=default&l=ktl&linkId=2e79013b9d1a0f81b756d39a3cea8af5& cb=1545754134531)

Margot Robbie (Elizabeth) as an older version of Queen Elizabeth.
Margot Robbie (Elizabeth)

While the competing performances push you to wish there was but one queen truly focused on, it is those competing performances which drive the film. As noted in The Favourite, period dramas often are polarizing as they push the constraint which was acceptable in years of yore with how modern storytelling calls for dramatics. But, unlike The Favourite, Mary Queen of Scots has a more mainstream appeal. Not because it is more comical, but the way the drama is crafted has a certain beat, or rhythm, which keeps you engaged throughout. Even though it may push the boundaries of historical accuracy.

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What Would Your Rating Be?


  1. I found it incredibly weird and even with it not being made into a big deal, it was hard to not question how would Elizabeth end up with an Asian woman as one of her dressers? Why and how would a Black person end up not only on her court, but an ambassador? I didn’t find it a big enough deal to note, since I fully expect this to increasingly happen in the future, but for a moment I questioned if the scenario would even be plausible.

    I’ll see if one of my subscriptions have Reign. Maybe it’s on Netflix? They have quite a few CW programs.

  2. There have been quite a few previous films and TV shows focused on Mary, Queen Of Scots.
    You might be interested in the TV series, “Reign”, which was made a few years ago and focused on Mary’s teen/young-adult years in France.
    (indeed, she spent so much of her early years in France that by most accounts she had a very pronounced French accent – something that no screen depiction has went with…. Ronan in this film and Samantha Morton in “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” both play her with something approaching a modern Scots accent… whereas Vanessa Redgrave in the 70s “Mary Queen Of Scots” film and Adelaide King in “Reign” go for generic Received Pronunciation)

    Mary and Elizabeth actually never met in real life. Most versions that cover this period of her life invent a fictitious meeting between the two, and make Elizabeth more emotionally invested in Mary’s fate than she likely was… probably because such a conflict is more dramatic than Elizabeth casually ordering the imprisonment and eventual execution of a distant relative that she’s never met and doesn’t know.

    I’m curious, what do you make of the colour-blind casting in this film? I know that this film has cast black and Asian performers in the roles of people who were historically white, and in positions of power that it would be impossible for a person of colour to attain at that time period.

    I feel ambivalent about this. It’s nice that people of colour are getting more opportunities, but sometimes I worry that colourblind casting can take its toll on suspension of disbelief, even in a film where historical accuracy is not a top priority.

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