QUICK TAKE: Mary Queen of Scots (2018)

By Miguel E. Rodriguez

Director: Josie Rourke
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Guy Pearce
My Rating: 6/10
Rotten Tomatometer: 60%

PLOT: Mary Stuart attempts to unite England and Scotland, but her cousin, Elizabeth I, refuses to acknowledge her sovereignty, resulting in years of treachery and political maneuvering.

I came into Mary Queen of Scots with only movie knowledge to guide me, mostly from Elizabeth, the 1998 film starring Cate Blanchett.  After watching this movie, I can honestly say that, in terms of knowledge, not much has changed.  All I learned was that Mary Stuart would stop at nothing to keep the throne, which she believed was her birthright, and her cousin, Elizabeth I, refused to acknowledge that birthright because of her religion.  I think.  And much heartbreak and backstabbing ensued, resulting in Mary Stuart’s beheading.  (That’s not a spoiler, we see it happening at the very beginning.)

This isn’t so much a BAD movie, as it is a DENSE movie.  It assumes the audience knows much more about Elizabethan intrigues than I obviously do.  It becomes clearer as the movie progresses, but for the first 20 or 30 minutes, I was a little lost.  There is some excitement during a military attack, not to mention the unexpected exhibition of cunning linguistics, but for the most part the movie is content to sit back and simply regard the drama without getting invested in the story.  It was rather bland.  Not boring, just lacking in flavor.

The biggest draws here are the performances from the two female leads.  Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie are riveting, Robbie in particular as Elizabeth I.  She disappears into the role, without any trace of her previous screen personas.  Ronan’s Scottish brogue is on point, and she brings Mary Stuart to fiery, red-headed life.  But the surrounding story density never seems to let the actors swing for the fences.  It was a muted experience.

Fans of this historical period will likely enjoy Mary Queen of Scots more than I, much as Queen fans adored Bohemian Rhapsody more than non-fans.  I wouldn’t necessarily run to theaters, though.  Maybe wait for cable or Netflix.  Yeah.