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Mary Queen Of Scots Movie Review: It Is Too Busy Being Brutal To Consider Brilliance

Subhash K . Jha

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Mary Queen  Of Scots

Starring  Saoirse Ronan,  Margot Robbie

Directed  by Josie Rourke

Rating: **  (2 stars)

History is  nobody’s  personal property. Filmmakers are free  to re-interpret and even vandalize historical  facts as long as  they do not distort history outright.

In Mary Queen Of Scots the new version of the classic story  of conflict  where Queen Elizabeth 1 takes on Mary Queen  Of Scotland, Queen Mary’s court seems more  a hotbed of  excessive  libidousness than a place of political intrigue.  The  atmosphere  is one  of  exacerbated hormones  with Queen Mary  all but raping her English husband(played by a  Scottish actor Jack Lowden) who is caught  in bed with  a  gay courtier (Ismael  CruzCordova) who incidentally is the most  liberated  character  in  the over-populated  plot.

No wonder  the  gay character  gets savagely knifed.This  is a film that doesn’t have tolerance  for moral spiritual  or sexual ambivalence. The  characters  shriek  their  moral and political allegiances  . This loudness of mood comes  from  the  director’s  origins  in theatre. She must make the characters heard in the last row  even if it means  sacrificing  a  tempered equilibrium  between the  two protagonists.

This  brings  us   to Saoirse Ronan  and  Margot Robbie  as  the protagonists at war with one another  and a world that cannot accept female supremacy. Both accomplished actresses  attempt to play the two sides  of the battle  line with as much empathy and passion as possible. But the script doesn’t  encourage nuances. Ronan’s Mary  is all sweetness  and  sexiness. Robbie’s  Elizabeth  is an angered embittered  childless lonely woman  who wears her hideous masked face  as a shield against  the  emotions that flow within her.

Neither  performance can even remotely compare with  what Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson achieved  as Mary and Elizabeth  in the  1971  version of  Mary Queen  Of  Scots . Funnily, Ronan and Robbie actually resemble  the two  great actresses who played their parts  in the 1971  films. So it looks  like  Ronan and Robbie are playing Redgrave  and  Jackson rather  than Mary  and Elizabeth.

On the  plus side,  this new  profoundly  disappointing  version  of  Mary Queen Of Scots  has some  luscious shots  of  horses trooping across the Scottish countryside. But that’s more because  a camera can  be placed anywhere in Scotland to capture  a panoramic  landscape. Not  much is seen  of the British outdoors,  perhaps this is done purposely  to  replicate Elizabeth’s  hemmed-in emotionally locked-out existence.

I may  be wrong in imagining such thematic  metaphors in  a film that gets down to basics with Mary’s husband pleasuring her manually on  their wedding night .After her  satiation  she offers to  return the  favour.

“There  is no need for that,” the  bridegroom declares  coyly. Queen Mary looks more confused  by the nuptial sacrifice than moved. By the time her  execution comes along I was no longer sure,  other than their religious  difference, what the  problem was between  the two queenly cousins. Or, why Queen Mary  wore  red to her  execution.

Maybe the  black dress had gone to the laundry.

While it is  welcome to see  strong women  taking the  lead  in another political drama ,Mary Queen  Of  Scots nowhere  replicates  the masterly  mischief and pungent political machinations  of that other  recent favourite British  period drama   The  Favourite.

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