<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>


Directed by Josie Rourke. Starring Saorise Ronan, Margot Robbie, Jack Lowden, Joe Alwyn, David Tennant, Guy Pearce, Gemme Chan, Martin Compston, Imsael Cruz Cordova, Adrian Lester, Ian Hart, Brendan Coyle

Running time: 2 hours 5 minutes


The only thing carrying this relatively dull film is the performances of its lead actors, Soarise Ronan and Margot Robbie, who should have been given more onscreen time together.

Haven’t we seen films about kings and castles (and dragons in Game of Thrones) warring each other for thrones and maidens and revenge? Of course, many times over and far more interestingly and passionately than the bland Mary Queen of Scots. It has its moments, but for the most part it plays out as expected, sometimes quite repetitive.


Mary Queen of Scots (Soarise Ronan) is a teenager when she’s married to the King of France, who dies and leaves her without a throne. But since she’s a Stewart, and cousin of the reigning Queen Elizabeth (Margot Robbie), she is becomes Queen of Scotland and is in line to follow Elizabeth as Queen of England. She clearly knows what’s important and rather than just live a peaceful life somewhere in the French countryside, she decides to stake claim to both thrones, defying her council of men, her male family members, the male priests and even her male lovers who are all trying to kill her or get her killed. Only her ladies-in-waiting are loyal to her.

The men on the side of Queen Elizabeth are also plotting Mary’s demise since her religion goes against theirs. “Men are so cruel,” she says as she secretly admires Mary and stays away from all the conspiring. Religion has caused more wars than it has brought peace or love to the world.


After watching the recent controversial Gillette advertisement chastising men for their wicked ways and scolding them for trying to talk to women – a message so badly executed that it’s no wonder it didn’t hit home – I thought that this film was pretty much in the same vein. Sure men were cruel and even more traditional in those times where they thought women had no place on the throne. Yet I can’t help but think that the female director was taking a page out of the Gillette ad in painting each and every single man in the film as evil or wicked. Not even the gay minstrel (Imsael Cruz Cordova) is without terrible fault.

Mary comes across as all-forgiving, all-loving and benevolent. She is both strong and emotional. Soarise Ronan does a great job of this. Elizabeth is painted as a recluse Queen who listens to her close advisor Cecil (Guy Pearce) and then runs off to make paper flower paintings. She worries about her looks, the fact that she can’t bear an heir and can’t be with the man she loves. Margot Robbie isn’t someone you’d picture as the ‘male’ Queen of England but she transforms nicely and I wished we got to see more of her madness; that would have made the proceedings a bit more festive.


Diversity is well represented in the film, except in that all the men of that time were pretty homogeneously ghastly, according to director Josie Rourke. This does not offend me, but I can see many men who would be considering the serious backlash at the Gillette ad. It would seem that the women are angry and they want their pound of flesh.

Whatever the gender message and however crudely it may be delivered, Mary Queen of Scots fails to rise above the mediocre, trying merely to enchant you with pleasing vistas of the countryside and costumes in blue and black. I have yet to see a film of this kind beat the majesty and inspirational tone of Braveheart.


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