**Warning: Spoiler alert**
Mary was Queen of Scotland for only six years, but she packed a life-full. Crowned at only 6 days old when her father passed, she is shackled off to France for her protection. The film begins with Mary’s (Saoirse Ronan) return to Scotland, age 18 and a widow, to take up reign.
The reunion with her half brother Moray (James McArdle) – is a stiff and veiled welcome. He has achieved an amicable peace with England but Mary wants more – to unite the two lands. She writes to Elizabeth (Margot Robbie) at once to discuss that she may be named heir to the throne in the event of Elizabeth should die before producing an heir. This immediately puts the English on guard, especially William Cecil (Guy Pearce), Elizabeth’s most trusted advisor.
Pearce’s Cecil is always by her side, like an annoying mosquito that she just wants to swat away. He preaches to Elizabeth incessantly that she must marry and produce an heir to protect the throne, or provide a suitable patsy for Mary to marry, whom they can control. Robert Dudley (Joe Alwyn) is the suitor so named, an odd choice as Dudley is both Elizabeth’s confidante and lover.
Mary refuses. Against the advice of her own council, Mary – swift to produce a child first – is smitten by, and marries, Lord Darnley (Jack Lowden) – a drunkard and an adulterer. He obliges Mary with his husbandly duty, and with news that Mary is expecting, she writes again to Elizabeth, this time with the hope that Mary’s child be named as heir. The fact that the Scottish lineage will continue should be good news. However, it plays out on a backdrop of malicious machination by many factions desperate to remove the young queen from Scotland. The pace of the plot here could appear overdone, however, the events are largely true.
When it comes the moment the two queens meet, the scene is captivating. The subtext strikes right at the core of their doubt and fear towards, even misunderstanding of, each other, given the years of brainwashing and malignment of truth from their advisors.
In making this scene feel as real as possible, Ronan and Robbie kept themselves apart from each other when in costume. When it came time to face each other, they saw each of their characters for the first time.
Ronan plays a headstrong young queen, who is willing to get her hands dirty, with gusto. Robbie’s Elizabeth on the other hand, appears sometimes detached from matters of the court. All in all, the film is an entertaining introduction into this period of history. There are a lot of characters at court, so keeping up with who’s on whose side will take some energy.
Mary, Queen of Scots opens nationally on 17 January 2019.
About 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
Stars: Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Jack Lowden, Guy Pearce, David Tennant, Adrian Lester, Brendan Coyle, Gemma Chan