WORTH A LOOK?: ****
RUN TIME: 125 minutes
WHEN?: Released in the UK 18/1/19
Screenwriter Beau Willimon told us when he was working on Netflix’s House Of Cards that ‘power is what really interests me’ and it is the fascinating dynamic between rivals here, the titular Mary and Elizabeth I that dominates.
- Read on for reasons including why we’re baffled that this isn’t doing better in awards season
Director Josie Rourke is better known as Artistic Director of the Donmar and the greatest compliment we can pay her screen directorial debut is that it feels far more cinematic than theatrical and concentrates on showing rather than verbally telling the story.
It’s 1561 Mary, Queen of Scotland, returns from France to her half-brother’s home in Scotland after her husband’s death. In England, her cousin, Elizabeth is the unmarried Queen, unable to produce an heir and threatened by Mary’s potential claim to her throne.
The supporting cast will be very familiar to West End theatregoers with David Tennant (Don Juan In Soho and Richard II) almost unrecognisable under a voluminous beard as John Knox, a Protestant cleric unhappy at the return of Catholic Mary to Scotland.
James McArdle (Angels In America) is believable as Mary’s plotting half brother and Jack Lowden (Measure For Measure for Rourke at the Donmar) convinces as a suitor with an eye wandering in an unexpected direction.
Taylor Swift’s boyfriend Joe Alwyn (more serious here than in The Favourite and about to also appear in Boy Erased) moves between the 2 queens as they contemplate their affections for him and Guy Pearce is strong as a very honest advisor to Elizabeth.
Mary Stuart starring Lia Williams and Juliet Stevenson was recently adapted by Robert Icke for a successful West End run and those central performances are as strong as those given here by Saoirse Ronan (pictured right above) and Margot Robbie (left). The latter is especially impressive as the woman plagued by ill health and envy of her rival.
The 2 never met but do here in a scene which is far too over-stylised with linen sheets draped everywhere that screams out for a French and Saunders parody.
Mary Queen Of Scots is far less quirky than The Favourite which seems to have stolen its thunder but we would argue that it’s no less entertaining and we’ve everything crossed for a better showing for it in Tuesday’s Oscar nominations than at the BAFTAs, where it earned just 3.