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Review: Mary Queen of Scots

‘Mary Queen of Scots’ depicts the historical story of the rise and fall of Mary, Queen of Scots’ (Saoirse Ronan) reign in Scotland and her unique relationship with her cousin Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie), the Queen of England.

To say I have been highly anticipating this film since the first teaser trailer was released last year would be a massive understatement. The cast is a remarkable amalgamation of talent and the story is one which is rich in drama and intrigue. However, I’m deeply disappointed to say that this film unfortunately didn’t fulfil the high expectations that I had entering the cinema.

I think for me the issue that I have is that it’s not doing anything particularly new or remarkable. I find it hard to watch period dramas as they’ve been done so many times already so I believe that it takes a certain innovative perspective to make it worth watching. Personally, it has to be new in order for it to engage me. Whether that’s in terms of character development or camerawork, literally any film technique that is slightly different to the usual will draw me in. But for me, this film unfortunately didn’t do this. It’s such a shame as well as there was nothing particularly wrong with the performances by Robbie and Ronan, in fact, they depicted realistic interpretations of these two women. However, I wasn’t moved by them. Having said that though, I may have misinterpreted the film and for this reason I wouldn’t completely object to a second viewing to try and more greatly analyse the points at which my attention dropped.

Potentially I’m being too harsh. There were points where it nearly bridged this gap, where it came so close to fulfilling this ideal in my head of doing something new. But then that storyline would be dropped, and I’d be left a little disengaged once more. If I had entered it with no expectations whatsoever I think I would have left the cinema unfazed by it. However, due to my excitement I can’t help but feel slightly disappointed. Previously I would have seen beyond my lack of enthusiasm for a period drama and would have persevered to try and enjoy it regardless. But after seeing more recent interpretations of this genre from the likes of ‘The Favourite’ and ‘Colette’ I’ve been exposed to a far more exciting perception of it. It turns out, these adaptations can be relatable to a modern audience, can be funny but equally serious too. Now that I’ve witnessed how humanity can genuinely be injected into stories that can feel far too removed from our own reality, I feel as if I’ve been cheated slightly.  

Having said all of this though, I would still recommend a watch if you have a spare hour or so, if for nothing more than to witness Margot Robbie completely transform herself into Elizabeth I. Also there’s a particularly controversial love triangle featuring one truly brilliant aspect of the film, Jack Lowden, which had that been given slightly more focus I may have been more forgiving of the story as a whole.

In essence though, this film is simply unremarkable. It does a fine job at depicting this historical story. But is it worth watching a film that only succeeds at doing a ‘fine’ job?

You can still see Mary Queen of Scots in Everyman Cinema in York.