By Che Zuro
Saoirse Ronan in "Mary Queen of Scots"
Photo by Liam Daniel - © Universal Pictures
When I saw Mary Queen of Scots on my list to watch for awards season, I was thrilled, being a history buff and a fan of everything Scottish, so my review could be slightly biased. I also love both Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, the obvious stars of the film.
Based on the book, "Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart" by Dr. John Guy, this beautifully shot film begins when Mary returns to her native land, Scotland, from France, as the widow of King Francis II, to reclaim her place as Queen. Only then begins the struggle with her "sister," cousin Elizabeth I, Queen of England and Scotland. As a Catholic, not accepted in England, Mary's worldly ideas of allowing her subjects to worship however they please gives her the love of her people, while making her dangerous to the English. She also does not opt into the glamorous and fashionable life that the other royals have seemed to have perfected. Of course though, with the struggles of reclaiming her rightful place on the throne, there is treachery running amok, sides being taken, and men trying to take the reins away from women. She is forced into marriages, raped, lied to, yet she remains a strong woman with a focus on what is good for her people. This makes her even more dangerous to the royals that surround her and want a different world.
Although there are historical errors in the film, the story is interesting for all enthusiasts of history, and perhaps other's who are interested in learning what life might have been like in the 16th century Europe.
Margot Robbie in "Mary Queen of Scots"
Photo by Parisa Tag - © FOCUS FEATURES LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
High points include Saoirse Ronan holding together this entire film. Being in practically every scene, her acting is tireless, truthful and believable. (Even in some of the unbelievable scenes that were seemingly added for shock value versus historical accuracy.) Margot Robbie is very good, but IMHO not worthy of a SAG Award nomination while the main actor was obviously snubbed.
The costumes are superb, hair and makeup fairly accurate for the times, and the locations and scenery and cinematography are beautiful. The sweeping views of Scotland while watching scenes on horseback took the viewer to the places unknown. I would watch it again just to see the Scottish countryside!
All in all, I would highly suggest this film, but also suggest reading real history about this era and about Mary Stuart and her struggles with cousin Elizabeth I, who was responsible for her demise.