Mary Queen of Scots is a historical drama directed by Josie Rourke and written by Beau Willimon, based on John Guy’s biography, Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart. This film is a period piece and takes place in the 1500s chronicling the 1569 conflict between Mary of Scotland and Elizabeth of England. It could be considered a tragedy based on a true story but historically incorrect which caused some adverse reviews from critics. However it’s a worth while film that I have mixed feelings about.
In 1561, nineteen-year-old Mary (Saoirse Ronan), Catholic Queen of Scotland, returns to her home country from France following the death of her husband, Francis II of France, to take up her throne. She is received by her half brother, the Earl of Moray (James McArdle). In neighboring England, her cousin, twenty-eight-year-old Elizabeth (Margot Robbie) is the Protestant Queen of England. She is unmarried, childless, and threatened by Mary’s potential claim to her throne. Mary soon clashes with the cleric John Knox (David Tennant) and dismisses him from her court. Knox is a protestant and leader of the Scottish Reformation and perceives Mary to be a danger to the kingdom’s Protestant supremacy.
Here we have two queens, which are also cousins, that are jealous of each other. One wants to be married with children so there’s an heir to the throne and the other never wants to be married or have children but is in love with her counselor, Robert Dudley (Joe Alwyn). Elizabeth is all about the business of running the country while Mary tries to have both, a family and run a country. The two queens play a game of chicken with each other in hopes one will yield. Mary admits she married the wrong man the first time around and has now repeated history with a new husband, Henry Stuart: Lord Darnley (Jack Lowden) who is atrocious [according to this film) in every way. Upon Darnley marrying Mary, she discovers him in bed with her friend and private secretary, David Rizzio (Ismael Cruz Córdova) the following morning. Faced with insurgency and infidelity, Mary decides to quash the rebel forces but spares both Rizzio and Moray. She demands Darnley give her a child. When a child is conceived, Mary declares that the child is the “heir to Scotland and England” — which deeply offends the English.
Of course there is so much more to this intriguing story but I must stop here, as not to give it away. What becomes of Mary, her husbands and her ploy to reign over England, Scotland and Ireland. I found Mary Queen of Scots extremely interesting and well acted. There is so much to take in — everything from adultery to beheadings. History dictates a slightly different version and the critics have picked up on the changes thus giving the film a scolding and deflated ratings. If you like period pieces, Check It Out!
[Queen of Scots is Oscar Nominated for Best Costume Design and Best makeup and Hairstyling]