Historical drama? Check. Great actors and actresses giving great performances? Check. A great score to fit the times? Check. Amazingly beautiful scenery shot on location? Check. Historical accuracies and a good script?
Not so much.
Now don’t get me wrong – I really enjoyed Mary Queen of Scots. There was plenty of stuff to like. From the very beginning, we are introduced to the Scottish landscape, and it is present for the entire movie. It is reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings in that it utilizes its surrounding areas perfectly. This makes for some beautiful shots that could only be possible with the filming locations.
But the look of the film is not limited to the English and Scottish lands. The set and costume design is beautifully done. There is obvious attention to detail in every aspect, from what the characters wear to where they are.
As I mentioned, there were great performances all around. But Saoirse Ronan, like Emma Stone in The Favourite, just vaulted herself to another level. As the titular character, she has to carry most of the weight, and she does it incredibly well. The film tries to illustrate the problem of male-dominated politics. At every corner, men are either trying to coerce or take over the crown from Mary. But she has to stand strong, until she can no longer. Ronan displays this determination well as her world seems to crash down around her.
Margot Robbie also delivers a nuanced performance as Queen Elizabeth I, though she doesn’t get as much screen time. It is Mary’s film, with Elizabeth playing a supporting role, so she isn’t given as much to do. But she is still very good, as she too has to navigate the whims of men.
But this is where the film falters. It is trying hard to be a feminist piece that shows the repression of women in government. And while this works at times – the audience is bound to be frustrated by the protagonist’s inability to do what she wants – in the grander scheme of the film, it struggles to get its point across. It resorts to prolonged sex scenes when its tense arguments and discussions are riveting.
There are unfortunate missteps such as these, but Mary Queen of Scots should reign during awards season. At least, Saoirse Ronan and the costume department should. Those two alone make this movie worth a watch.