Mary Queen of Scots

Mary Queen of Scots (Josie Rourke, 2018)


Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Jack Lowden

Mary Stuart's attempt to overthrow her cousin Elizabeth I, Queen of England, finds her condemned to years of imprisonment before facing execution.

... The sequence where Saoirse Ronan rides out in armour that matches her blue eyes is utterly, utterly to die for. The famous pre-mortem unveiling of the red petticoat makes one yearn for Derek Jarman or Ken Russell.
Sadly, most of Mary Queen of Scots ... leans towards the drab and the pedestrian. Too many of the supposed flourishes speak of Rourke’s theatrical background at the Donmar Warehouse.
A late scene (the details of which really would constitute a spoiler) finds characters wandering weirdly through a room decorated with inexplicable sheets of dangling muslin. This sort of thing works fine in studio productions of Richard II, but cinema audiences are bound to wonder who’s been drying their bandages.
... It’s the best Sunday-night telly at the cinema this Friday. Donald Clarke.

Rourke is best known as the Artistic Director of Donmar Warehouse (Tom Hiddleston's Coriolanus). Several of her productions have been made into National Theatre Live broadcasts. In her debut film, she takes full advantage of the freedom from the confines of a stage. Long shots of Scotland serve as transitions between battles, both physical and political. Scotland is claustrophobic, shot in dark rooms with a semblance of natural light although often one wishes a fill light had been used on the faces. In contrast, England has an airier feel.
In the 1971 movie Mary, Queen of Scots, Vanessa Redgrave played the title character and faced off against Glenda Jackson's Elizabeth I. The screenplay (by John Hale) had the two cousins meet twice and suggests there was a homosexual liaison between David Riccio (Ian Holm) and Mary Stuart's second husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley (Timothy Dalton).
With Willimon's script and under Rourke's direction, the new version of Mary Queen of Scots is more emphatic about this homosexual connection, but not explicit. Willimon's script also can't resist the meeting of these two queens, something that didn't happen in real life. Jana Monji.

Garry Gillard | reviews | New: 24 February, 2019 | Now: 12 March, 2019