A tale of two queens: My review of “Mary Queen of Scots”

Rating: ★★★

I’ve never really considered myself a massive fan of period dramas, so I tend to approach them with more caution than I would a different genre. After being pleasantly surprised by Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite, I suddenly became more excited about Mary Queen of Scots. Whilst I believe the former is a much stronger film, I still had a good time with this one.

The performances given by both Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie are just stunning. Between them, they carry the entire film and transport you to another time and place. They’re captivating and powerful, particularly Ronan as Mary. I loved her character and felt invested in her. Despite knowing how it was all going to end I still rooted for her throughout, and wanted her to succeed. Her character is driven, passionate and tenacious, traits that Ronan truly brings to life on screen.

Aesthetically, Mary Queen of Scots is a wonderful film that is picturesque even during the darker scenes. Both leading ladies pull off the roles and the costumes effortlessly. I’ve never been so impressed by hairstyling in particular, so I would love this film to win the Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling this year. The styles were so intricate and beautiful, bringing out the personalities of those who wore them.

It is also refreshing to know the film was directed by a woman, considering the narrative focuses on two of history’s most powerful and intriguing queens.  This was actually Josie Rourke’s directorial debut, and what a fantastic one it was. I loved the way she portrayed all the ugliness of life in this era, just as much as the regalness. There is one scene where Mary is shown on her period, and this really struck me. I liked how it was normalised, no one made a big deal out of it, it was just a part of her life like every other woman. I’m glad Rourke chose to include this.

As many people have pointed out, this film is certainly not historically accurate so if you’re the kind of person who needs that you’d leave feeling disappointed. For me, I saw it as an interesting case study of both women that’s a work of fiction. That’s alright in my books and I don’t have a problem with artistic licence. It was an entertaining period piece that was beautiful to look at. Sometimes that’s enough. Nobody was trying to suggest this was a documentary, it’s a film.

Overall Mary Queen of Scots is entertaining and very well acted, but the narrative does feel a little too slow and drawn out in places. It’s definitely not the strongest period piece I’ve seen, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad film. It is worth seeing on the big screen due to the beautiful Scottish scenery and the intense conflict between Protestant and Catholic. It’s bold, dramatic and worth losing yourself in, even if you’d only do it once.

What did you think of Mary Queen of Scots? Sound off in the comments below!


One thought on “A tale of two queens: My review of “Mary Queen of Scots”

  1. Lucy, you’re right. It’s no documentary. The thing that really put me off (I’m halfway through episode one and have had enough, is the way that Rourke seems to have bowed/bought in to the horrible trend to include BAME characters in senior roles: a black ambassador in the English court and an Oriental lady in waiting.
    Don’t get me wrong. I have been married for 40 years to a dark-skinned Thai whom I love like my life. But neither of these characters is plausible in a historical context.
    It seems to me that film makers feel it is necessary to value political correctness over historical correctness.
    And while you say this is not a documentary, it presents real historical people as if this is history. We will have generations of youngsters believing this is how it actually was.
    That’s wrong.


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