Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronin, who went head to head in the battle for best actress at last year's oscars, find themselves at odds once again. With sex, scandal and bloodshed all on the agenda Mary Queen of Scots offers Josie Rourke - Artistic Director from the Donmar Warehouse in London's theatreland - her full Silver Screen directorial debut. This historic drama examines Mary Stuart's attempt to overthrow her cousin Elizabeth the First, followed by the years of imprisonment leading up to her execution.
About as engaging as reading through a battered old textbook, Mary Queen of Scots is a dry and draining as a year nine history lesson. Rourke, taking a modern approach, brings to light the challenges of being a woman of authority in what was absolutely a mans' world. As well intentioned as she may be however, the result is a chest beating feminist statement that really misses the point about these two amazing British queens. Doing everything in its power to be as painfully politically correct as possible, this biographical drama becomes more fantastic than authentic, and is far worse for it
The film takes a routine and unchallenging path through Mary's life - amazingly - as it was by no means unchallenging for her. As Mary Queen of Scots is built entirely around the conflict between Mary and Elizabeth, as the audience we don't really feel that pain or passion, ending up more like uneasy bystanders. Robbie barely gets a chance to showcase her phenomenal acting credentials - in comparison to Ronin she has very little screen time and ultimately makes poor use of what she does have, turning in a low-key and ineffective performance. Her co-star on the other hand further demonstrates her acting royalty - Ronin is strong willed and empowered as Mary Stuart, singlehandedly bearing the weight of this otherwise burdensome film.
For the most part Mary Queen of Scots has its head in the clouds. There is so much that the film could have done, but it embarrasses itself with forced relationships, an awkward supporting cast and stale storytelling. The film takes no creative leaps of faith yet paradoxically it's not entirely grounded in reality either, fundamentally Rourke fails to grab our attention with Queen Elizabeth and Mary's surprisingly underdeveloped relationship.
Rouke places two up-to-the-minute stars in a dusty and uninspired tumble through British history, with Ronin ruling as Mary Stuart. Mary Queen of Scots is devoid of the blistering political tension you would expect, and what's more the narrative develops in a particularly substandard way - packing no punch nor delivering any surprises. As bland and watered down as primary school squash, Mary Queen of Scots demonstrates that Brexit isn't the only political disaster currently doing the rounds.
Mary Queen of Scots:
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Hi I’m James - a huge welcome to my film blog! I started this site just after my 14th birthday and have been bringing you my own take on the hottest box office arrivals and many art house triumphs ever since.