Two powerful women share the screen and outshine everybody else who enters the frame.
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥/5
Saoirse Ronan as Mary, and Margot Robbie as Elizabeth I, absolutely dominate the silver screen in this production, illustrating what powerhouses these two actresses truly are. Both are Oscar nominees for previous roles, and I would have no qualms in putting a sizeable bet on both of them being winners in the near future.
The film does not focus on Mary’s years in captivity, instead choosing to highlight the betrayals and bad decisions which led her to that place and her eventual execution in 1587. #432yearoldspoilers
As a historian, it can be difficult for me to watch historical films, as I have a tendency to be extra aware of mistakes or a blatant disregard for the truth. I have tried hard, however, not to do this – it’s not something that I do on purpose, I guess it’s just force of habit! Of course, there were moments in this where my eyebrow slipped a few centimetres up my forehead – Lord Darnley sleeping with David Rizzio; Mary meeting with Elizabeth in what appeared to be a laundry; and Mary’s marriage to Bothwell, were a few. Namely because, as far as I’m aware, Darnley wasn’t homosexual; Mary never met with Elizabeth (this is definitely true), and Bothwell supposedly raped Mary after abducting her on the road sometime (months) after Darnley’s murder – they did not marry only a handful days afterwards. And yet, in reality, these changes to the historical narrative really don’t matter, as long as the finished product creates a damn good story, leaving behind some sort of truth from history. I would have to draw the line somewhere; I’m looking at you The Tudors (great fun, not great history).
Queen Elizabeth I: Your beauty, your bravery, now I see there’s no cause for envy. Your gifts will be your downfall.‘Mary, Queen of Scots’ (2018)
Mary Stuart: If you murder me, remember you murder your sister, and you murder your queen.
Now, quite clearly, I am not a film critic. Yet I believe the purpose of film is take a story, be it a new one, or a tale that has been told many times (such as Mary’s story), and leave the viewer with questions, or a feeling, or a will for change or an action. I feel like a good film allows the viewer a few hours of escapism, whereas a great film leaves the viewer questioning, or having to reconsider aspects or ideas that they hadn’t previously given too much thought to. Anything emotional that Saoirse Ronan puts her mind to is going to achieve this, and I was left feeling in equal parts saddened and angered by the unfolding of the inevitable. Yes, she was betrayed on all sides, but if her damn pride hadn’t been so high, then perhaps she might have survived. That’s counter-factual history, but it goes to show what is possible when such a dominant actress takes on such a role; for a moment, I actually believed that she might come out on top. I was able to suspend what I knew, and I was willing for this woman to succeed. That almost made the ending worse in a way.
Margot Robbie’s powerful vulnerability as Elizabeth I provided a wonderful counterpoint to Ronan’s wilder and more-chaotic Mary. They might be two sides of the same coin, but they approach the same problem (of scheming men and overly powerful subjects) in wildly different ways. This is Director Josie Rourke’s first outing into feature film, and after illustrating just what she can get from two incredible actresses, I can’t wait to see what she turns her hand to next.
I have relinquished all sense of self to the throne which draws my every word and action.Margot Robbie as Elizabeth I in ‘Mary, Queen of Scots’.
The film has been out in limited theatres since December 2018, and I urge you to see it, if you have yet to. It is a powerful showcase of two stellar actresses at their most dominant.