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Film Review: “Mary Queen of Scots” (2018) ★★★


It is no wonder from a historical point of view as to why Europe is leaning more toward women’s reign and is more tolerant. Is it because we age every day or are we becoming wiser? Watching “Mary Queen of Scots” gives a whole new perspective on how the world was back then, the rules it followed, and why the emotions held back was a powerful tool that could be used to defeat any enemy – including the one who thinks he can take over the throne.

I am not a historian but familiar with the story of Mary and Elizabeth, based on the book “Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart” by John Guy. The screenplay written by Beau Willimon and directed Josie Rourke, the film follows Mary, Queen of Scots, and her time when she wanted her cousin Elizabeth I of England to accept her legitimacy. That was a time when Mary was determined to give what the Queen was unable to – an heir. While attempting to become the Queen of England, she finds herself in prison for years before eventually facing her final companion – death.

The film begins right before Mary’s execution, but shortly after takes us back to when she reunites with her brother in order to conspire against Queen Elizabeth. Even though the film takes aim on Mary more than Queen Elizabeth I, it’s enough for us to see the difference between the two – one is extremely beautiful and ambitious, while the other one is already content and lacks emotions. However, while the film does not touch upon of Queen Mary’s time and why she was called Bloody Mary, through the two hours of journey you’re about to embark yourself on, you meet the same Mary, the Mary that would do anything to gain the throne, but less vicious than historic facts claim.

However, as you may know, there are never two kings or queens, and in a world where the woman is a ruler, one must be assured the battle for the throne will be much more ruthless than the ones you see in HBO’s “Game of Thrones”, which set its own standards that may not be as high as you may expect. Through beautiful costumes, perfect location, and the scenery, the movie does its job to transport you to the right era to witness history in a new way. But there’s one thing though, you will have to wait for the last twenty minutes of the film to actually feel the emotional depth of the story that was lacking when we needed it the most.

As for the performance, which is the bigger issue with the film, it was not good enough to keep my attention throughout the film. Despite the attempts of Saoirse Ronan as Mary of Scots and Margot Robbie as Queen Elizabeth I, it was not enough to believe what they were about to convey. Luckily, going back to the last twenty minutes of the film, it felt like both actresses finally realized the impact of their ability to shape the historical figures they portray. You will feel that strong confidence in their performances that actually erases all the negativity you may have had after watching the movie.

In the end, the make-up department did an amazing job by making Margot Robbie disappear, so we all could admire her as Queen Elizabeth I. Both leading stars, again, could not do much to help the film from flopping but certain scenes and the one scene they share together is definitely worth seeing. Unfortunately, the film itself is not as worthy. It could be better and even worse than it is right now. But I guess, if we leave all the negativity and the failed direction aside, “Mary Queen of Scots” is still worth your time but not more than once if you want to witness the jealousy, the hunger for power and especially to witness the era when man had a specific role to play, but to be a ruler was not one of them.

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