Mary Queen of Scots (2019) – Dir Josie Rourke

A treat for you today. A review from Adam (see link below for his short stories) from “Adams Cult Corner”:

The story of Mary and Elizabeth is pretty well known, so I wasn’t expecting many shock twists and turns in this latest retelling of the tale of two sisters.



First, the good bits. It was very well cast, with Margot Robbie excelling as the fraught, rather brittle Queen Elizabeth. I particularly liked the imagery of the white make-up (masking her smallpox scars) also masking her true emotions.  Another impressive performance came from an unrecognisable David Tennent as the fire and brimstone cleric John Knox.


The film itself looked fantastic, and really evoked the feeling of Elizabethan England (bar the battle scenes as detailed below). The plot moved at a brisk pace, which helped in keeping several plot strands nice and easy to follow.


I’ve had a couple of weeks to reflect on this film, and I have an issue with several things that didn’t seem quite right.


Firstly, the depiction of Mary. Although ably played by Saoirse Ronan, the screenplay was trying too hard to portray her in a modern light. For example, I found the depiction of her ladies-in-waiting as some kind of Gwen Stefani girl-power posse frankly annoying. The inclusion of the gender-fluid Rizzio as part of her girl posse also smacked of appealing to a modern audience rather than aiming for authenticity.  Her decision to marry Lord Darnley seemed to be based solely on his ability to use his tongue ‘downstairs’ rather than any political motive.


Secondly, the screenplay also came across as more suited to the stage than screen. This is never more apparent than the (fictional) meeting between Elizabeth and Mary near the end of the film. They wander around a wash house, never actually seeing each other due to a large number of drying sheets. I can see that this would work well on stage but comes across like a Persil advert on screen.  It also seems like the director thought that a battle scene might serve as a break from all the talking. Unfortunately, it comes across more like a local village re-enactment society show than a true reflection of Elizabethan warfare, with little sense of the danger, horror and depredation of war.



All in all, a decent effort but one that would have been fantastic on stage comes across as just ok on screen.


Adams short stories:

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