Film Review: Mary Queen of Scots

British history is replete with ruling (Asia, Africa) and rulers (the Elizabeths, the Victorias). Adapted from the 2004 ‘Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart’, by British historian John Guy, the film charts the troubled history of the Isles from 1561, when, at the age of 16, Mary (Irish-American Saoirse Ronan) returned to Scotland after the death of her French husband – with her pock-marked cousin Elizabeth (Margot Robbie), on the English throne. Power issues and the differing religious denominations (the Protestant Elizabeth and the Catholic Mary) play a significant part in the escalation of hostilities which come to a head in 1969 between the two crowns where Catholic noblemen from the North of England tried to dethrone Elizabeth and install Mary. The 16-year timeframe of the film ends with Mary’s head on the chopping-block.

And well, the crowns are indeed thorny, as playwright Beau Willimon’s screenplay seems to suggest – the two royals grappling with the machinations of noblemen on either side. Willimon seems to have taken liberties with the screenplay – the face-off between the two on screen which, according to history books, seemed improbable.

Director Rourke does a decent job in her debut feature: the set pieces involving connivances and sexual innuendos. With pleasing cinematography and two Academy nominations – hair/make-up design (Jeny Shircore) and costume design (Alexandra Byrne), MQS, with a two-hour runtime, promises much, but  delivers – just about.

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