Mary Queen of Scots – Movie Review


Mary Queen of Scots


Directed by: Josie Rourke

Written by: Beau Willimon, Based on the book “Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart” by John Guy

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Jack Lowden, Joe Alwyn, Gemma Chan, Martin Compston, Ismael Cordova, Brendan Coyle, Ian Hart, Adrian Lester, James McArdle, with David Tennant and Guy Pearce

Rated: R

Run Time: 2h 4min

Genre: Biography, Drama, History

4 Frames out of 5

By: Shari K. Green



In ‘Mary Queen of Scots,’ filmmaker Josie Rourke shows us a dramatic and intense time in history, cleverly focusing on and examining the life of the ever charming, ever bewitching and sharp, Mary Stuart (Ronan), who wants only what is rightfully hers. The film is written by Beau Willimon and based on the book, ‘Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart’ by John Guy. The world Rourke creates with cinematographer John Mathieson (X-Men: First Class, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, The Phantom of the Opera) is flush with color, showing beautiful landscapes however the piece is dark and lonely because though the spotlight is on Mary Stuart, there’s another woman who’s casting a pall over the entire situation. That woman is Queen Elizabeth I (Robbie), the Queen of England. Mary’s very existence threatens her in many ways.

Mary was the Queen of France at only sixteen years of age. Now widowed at the age of eighteen, she wants to be the Queen of Scotland, her homeland. After her husband’s death, she returns to her country of origin to reclaim the throne. This is where she is met with great opposition… and a jealous rival. Feisty and strong-willed, Mary pleads with her cousin to meet her face to face, so they can rule ‘side by side.’ She begs that they not allow men to get in the way of what could be an amicable and peaceful kinship. She wants and asks for unity. Of course, men twist her thoughts and encourage Elizabeth to believe that Mary is more foe than friend. Hungry for power, the men helping Elizabeth govern want to rule over both Scotland and England. Elizabeth is unable to bear a child and they fear what may happen when Mary weds and has a child. This child would then be the next in line to take over and lord over all the land.


This chapter in the tale is tedious. There are a lot of characters to get to know but once you learn everyone’s names and where they fit in the plot, the pacing never slows. You settle in rather nicely, in fact, and the two hours go by comfortably. Ronan plays a bullheaded and determined Mary who wants to be with a man ‘fully,’ but not if she’s owned by him. Shocking for the day, she is her own woman. You’ll be surprised to learn that who Mary does eventually pick to marry is actually gay. How she handles the situation when she finds out is what endears you to her even more. You’ll find yourself wanting her to succeed and get what she’s due and you’ll need for Elizabeth to see her point of view and share her vision. The script is decent except for the few times when men and their games of war slip in. It wasn’t really needed but the reasons for it are understood.

At times, I was both fascinated and confused by the story. It’s well-done, powerful and intriguing but at times a lot to take in. That said, do not miss a thing! No going up to get popcorn or taking bathroom breaks or anything because every second of screen time is filled with something you’ll regret having missed. The ending when the two women’s eyes fall upon one another for the first time is remarkable. Their conversation is the perfect way to close this film. It’s definitely a watch on the big screen if possible.


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About Shari K. Green

Shari became fascinated by films when at the age of seven she saw a movie being made in front of her house. As a teenager she immersed herself in the culture of film working on stage and then became a cinephile, working in a video store. Since then she expanded into film criticism writing for the last eight years and she has now written, directed and produced several short films and is currently working on a feature film project with her production company, Good Stew Productions, which she created with a few of her friends. Her favorite movies are “The Big Chill” and “Lonely Boy” and she enjoys watching Woody Allen films above all others.

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