Mary Queen of Scots: Fit For A Queen

Saoirse Ronan stars as Mary Stuart in MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS, a Focus Features release. Credit: Liam Daniel/Focus Features.

Mary Queen of Scots may span a few years of the queen’s life but actress Saoirse Ronan delivers a commanding performance as Scottish royalty.

Saiorse Ronan is proving to be an unstoppable force as an actress.  Her role as the late Scottish Queen proves to be no exception.  While her performance is great, my only beef with the film is how they don’t really bother aging the queen in appearance.  Mary arrives back in Scotland in 1561 a few months shy of her 19th birthday.  The film ends with her death at the age of 44 years old on February 8, 1587.  I’m working off of memory here when I say that they she looks the same throughout the entire film.  The case isn’t the same with Margot Robbie.  Robbie co-stars as Queen Elizabeth I.  Because of the makeup, the queen looks very much her age in those late years.

Of the two biopics about Scottish royalty, this one is better than Outlaw King.  Where that film focuses less on what drives the king, this one does better regarding the queen.  Because of Mary Stuart’s Catholic upraising, the Protestants are not a fan.  This really comes through in the life that actor David Tennant lends to his performance of Protestant reformer John Knox.  The bulk of the film focuses on a period of six years from the time Mary returns in 1561 until she flees for England in 1568.  The film explores Mary’s relationships with her half-brother, James Stewart, 1st Earl or Moray (James McArdle) and second husband Lord Darnley (Jack Lowdon).  More importantly, filmmakers delve into the sisterly rivalry between Mary and Queen Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie).

It’s these relationships that drive the film.  None more importantly than the rivalry especially since Mary asserts her claim to the English throne.  It’s a character study to an extent but one that plays into the current era, too.

Between costumes, hair, and makeup, they do a great job in recreating the time period.  Even the set pieces in the castles look phenomenal.  All in all, this is the film that Outlaw King needed to be except the other film focuses more on the wars than Robert the Bruce as a person.

The queen’s personal secretary, David Rizzio (Ismael Cordova) is portrayed as gender non-comforming even with the dialogue.  Rizzio tells Mary and her chambermaids that he feels more like her sister than a brother.  I’d expand more on this but this is where I’d actually have to read all the research available.  The film utilizes historical research and shows both Rizzio and Lord Darnley in bed together on the night of the wedding.  This is the only research that I can find so before I write more on this aspect, I would need to learn more of the history.

Led by Saoirse Ronan’s performance, Mary Queen of Scots is a film that’s fit for a queen.

DIRECTOR:  Josie Rourke
SCREENWRITER:   Beau Willimon
CAST:  Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Jack Lowden, Joe Alwyn, Gemma Chan, Martin Compston, Ismael Cordova, Brendan Coyle, Ian Hart, Adrian Lester, James McArdle, with David Tennant and Guy Pearce

Focus Features opens Mary Queen of Scots on December 7, 2018.  See the movie and then read Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart by John Guy.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.