Mary Queen of Scots15¦ 4K, Blu-ray, DVD
Monarchs have got it so easy these days. All they have to do is mooch about in big houses, wave weirdly for a bit out of cars, and open a new wing to an already run down NHS hospital.
Back in the day, they knew how to be kings and queens; if you gave them grief, they’d chop your head off; if someone mentioned that your bum looked a tiny bit on the big side in that outfit they’d chop your head off, and if you felt like declaring war on France on a whim, you would, and then probably chop someone’s head off for suggesting such a thing.
Here then is the tale of two monarchs, cousins, who found themselves standing off against one another back in the day, between two great lands, Scotland and England.
1561 and after spending most of your life in France, Mary Stuart (Saoirse Ronan) returns to her homeland of Scotland, following the death of her husband Francis II, where she becomes queen, at the age of nineteen.
Considering the huge responsibility, she takes the role in her stride. So much so that when she gets messages from her cousin, Elizabeth (Margot Robbie), Queen of England, offering suggestions of whom she should marry, Mary makes a point of reminding her that she herself has a strong claim to the English throne. As you can imagine, that doesn’t go down particularly well.
But with regular correspondence between the two monarchs, a sort of friendship blooms, which is just as well for Mary, as she appears to have more enemies than friends in her own court, as she struggles to maintain control.
When historical dramas pop up on an actor’s radar, it’s no wonder they’re so keen to participate, what with all that silly dressing up and talking funny. So it’s no surprise to see a cracking cast appear in director Josie Rourke’s debut film. The cast includes the likes of David Tennant, Brendan Coyle, Ian Hart, Martin Compston, Gemma Chan, Adrian Lester and Guy Pearce. At the top of the talent tree however are Robbie and Ronan.
Their two performances are the beating heart of this film, as their on-going power struggle dominates proceedings. It’s this constant battle of wits that keeps things interesting. Another interesting battle is that of accents; there are so many actors adopting another voice, it’s as if they were auditioning for a new panel show Whose Voice is it Anyway?. Some nail it, like Ronan, and others simply let theirs get the better of them, don’t they Guy Pearce? And then you have Scottish actors such as Tennant and Compston (Line of Duty), usually known for their southern accents, speaking with broad Scottish accents. Crazy times.
How they sound shouldn’t really make a difference, but when the direction is a bit flat, it’s pretty noticeable. Up until this point, Rourke has been best known for her stage work directing, and the transition to the big screen is a somewhat bumpy one. At times the film does feel a tad stale, and yes, staged, lacking a sense of momentum.
The main event however is Ronan and Robbie, who both deliver crowd-pleasing performances that are worthy of royal appointment.