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Mary Queen of Scots (dir. Rourke)

Image: Saoirse Ronan as Mary Queen of Scots © Photograph by Liam Daniel. Property of Universal Pictures [Source: IMDB]

★★☆☆☆

Two Queens. Two Kingdoms. These ruling ladies find themselves at odds with one another and their courts, as the men around them try to control, undermine and usurp the power from beneath them. As they tackle growing problems at home they also try to out-think the other. But the ultimate result is one Queens execution at the hands of another.

Director: Josie Rourke. Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Guy Pearce, David Tennant [15]

Mary Queen of Scots might be a historically placed film about historical events. But where I called The Favourite wonderfully contemporary, Mary Queen is tragically so.

Bringing a modern approach with modern sentiments and modern morals to the absolute forefront this film tosses all you want from it out the window. That’s not to say that films cannot reflect modern society and comment on it. But, when it does, it should do so through the lens of historical issues, instead of pretending they didn’t exist. To deny the existence of the problem is to deny the overcoming of said issue as well. It is exactly this neglect of storytelling by painting a fantasy ideal world that the film loses all tenacity in its story. You never feel that Mary Queen is in a turbulent state of power or that she has enemies all around her because the film refuses to acknowledge the real truth. Instead, characters simply just fall into states of power because the script demands it, little is done to make the viewer understand how he/she got there other than ‘they wanted to backstab and they did somehow’.

Further this dulled blade approach is the cinematography, while there are certainly some cinematic shots and staging of scenes. For the most part, everything is very cut and dry, with little blocking happening and even less camera work. Resulting in a very flat and very static cinematic landscape. This is rippled down through to its characters, who come across largely one-dimensional and artificial. There are some exceptions and the exceptions are grand; Margot Robbie is terribly wasted in what felt like a minor cameo, she is quietly engrossing and conveys to the audience a huge amount of depth but sadly he get to explore very little. The close characters around Mary Stuart, like her husband are very engrossing and played to a t. But of course, Saoirse Ronan knows this is her film and despite not my own thought I’m going to repeat it anyway – “Saoirse Ronan is perfect in her performances that you actually can miss that she is doing terrifically” which is something I certainly did. Only upon reflection did I realise just how much Ronan becomes her character.

A character that emphasises the themes of dualities. Between faiths, allegiances, kingdoms and rulership. The desire to capture these dualities results in poor editing and plotting around the themes. Which diminish the impact of the story, with moments of complete boredom coming before absolutely riveting scenes in the Scottish power struggle. Unfortunately emphasising the lack of purpose and direction with the piece as does its disregard for proper storytelling by enforcing modern gaze at the whole affair. A film about Mary Stuart should be about Mary Stuart at the forefront and not about modern politics. A comment on modern politics told with nuance is the approach they should have taken. The beheading from this film is lacking captivation and is wholely tedious.

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