Universal Pictures presents the vastly anticipated Mary, Queen of Scots.
Last week, I was kindly invited to a preview screening of the film at New Farm Cinemas. I had heard quite a bit about this movie as it was released in the United States in December to varied reviews. The film, based on John Guy's book 'My Heart Is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots and Guilherme Scots' and is released in cinemas Australia wide on the 17th of January 2019.
Starring Golden Globe Winner Saoirse Ronan as Mary Queen of Scots and Australian actor and film producer Margot Robbie as Queen Elizabeth 1. The film was written by Beau Willimon and directed by Josie Rourke.
History tells us that Mary Stuart was 6 days old when her father King James V of Scotland passed away. That day, she became Mary, Queen of Scots. At 16, through marriage, she was bestowed the title of Queen consort of France, only to be widowed two years later. Months later, she returned to her homeland to reclaim her rightful throne.
It is at this point, in her already tempestuous life, we're introduced to Mary. She is just as you imagine her to be. Charming, fearless, cunning, and as we later learn, a shocking judge of character. Much has changed since Scotland's Queen last step foot in her dynasty. There is a new Queen ruling England, her cousin Queen Elizabeth the 1st (Margot Robbie), a throne Mary has a rightful claim to unless Elizabeth produces an heir. Not only does she represent a threat to the English monarchy her presence also fans the flames of religious unrest that skirted the forefront of political issues at the time.
Mary, Queen of Scots is a story about two powerful women striving to rule in a chauvinistic system set up to have them fail. Instead of becoming sisters, sharing the same burdens, they were aggravated rivals, pitted against each other as their lives played across of chessboard of wicked schemes, plots and deaths.
It should be noted that although they were surrounded by ruthless untrustworthy advisors, they both seemed to admire each other's tenacity. I dare say they respected each other despite themselves.
I enjoyed the film; it is not a story we are unfamiliar with so many have struggled to leave their fact-checking-book at home. Personally, I appreciated the storytelling and beautiful cinematography that visually transports you back into a murkier time in history. The performances by both lead actors were emotional and powerful, even in the quieter moments. You felt their pain and struggles and I for one count myself lucky to live in more enlightened times, regardless of how much further we still have to go.
The battle of marriage versus independence held a far more severe threat back then, especially when compared to the present time where it is mostly viewed as an outdated frame of mind. In saying that, this retelling of Mary, Queen of Scots does have a more contemporary feel with a diversity in casting and characters that speak to the modern world.
I felt they made the right decision having the two Queens meet, although the setting seemed a particularly odd choice. It did make for a captivating final confrontation between Ronan and Robbie.
I have to mention Margot's visual transformation into the altering Queen Elizabeth. Margot and Rourke cleverly shone a light on the effects of Elizabeth's physical burdens, political decisions and heavy crown on her mind, body and soul. Robbie's altering character performance was phenomenal.
Saoirse was also incredibly good, she was strong when needed yet demonstrated the ability to deliver just as powerfully with a sideways glance and a small smile. I applaud how she teetered the line between worldly Queen and young naivety.
The costumes were, of course, just as majestic as the Queens who wore them. I suspect the makeup department will receive several awards for their artistic contribution.
The supporting cast includes great performances by Jack Lowden as Lord Darnley, Ismael Cruz Cordova as David Rizzio, David Tennant as Protestant preacher John Knox, and Guy Pearce as Queen Elizabeth's advisor, Sir William Cecil.
This feminist period drama is no Jane Eyre tale - there are brutal scenes earning the film a MA15 rating. It's a compelling story well worth the ticket.