Third time’s the charm right? Mary Queen of Scots (2018) is a drama-filled feminist biopic of Mary Stuart’s life. Being preceded by films of the same name from 1971 and 2013, the bar was set high for all working on this project. Highlighting the film with two extremely talented actresses, Margot Robbie as Queen Elizabeth I and Saoirse Ronan as Mary Stuart, proved an excellent choice. With three nominations at the Oscars on her belt, Saoirse Ronan without a doubt will gain a fourth nomination for Mary Queen of Scots with her unwavering rendition of the strong-willed queen of Scotland. Even with only a single nomination under Robbie’s belt for her 2017 film, I, Tonya, with notable roles in movies such as The Wolf of Wall Street and Suicide Squad as well, Robbie is a force to be reckoned with.
Inheriting the throne when she was only six days old after the death of her father, Mary Stuart was indebted with responsibility from the beginning of her life. Marrying at fifteen and becoming widowed just three years later, Mary finds herself back to her roots in Scotland, claiming her title as Queen. That is where the film begins. Well…not exactly. The film actually begins with a brilliantly beautiful juxtaposition of Mary and Elizabeth in the moments before Mary’s execution. The movie ends the exact same way, bringing the movie full circle and giving the audience the solace of having a revelation of understanding.
The film has many noteworthy aspects. To begin, I have to bring attention to the beautiful Scottish landscapes placed throughout the film. Now I may just be partial to Scotland’s beauty, but the addition of these shots of gorgeous Scottish terrain may very well be the cherry on top of Ronan and Robbie’s performances.
Speaking of Margot Robbie, in the film, her character Elizabeth comes down with a case of the pox. Now, before this, the majority, if not all, of the film portrays natural looking faces with minimal makeup. However, this event provides a turning point for evaluating the strength that makeup has towards a film. Unarguably, Margot Robbie is a stunning actress and it is roles like this that prove that she is more than just a pretty face. After recovering from the pox, Elizabeth is physically scarred, leaving her one step further away from the youthful, glowing Mary. The way in which the makeup team does this is worth mentioning. I personally had to take a double take because without knowing who it was, I would not have recognized Robbie as the face behind Elizabeth. However, Elizabeth’s grace and indomitable personality never wavers.
The film speaks to the misogynistic ideals of the time with politics revolving around religion, marriage, and childbirth. Anything and everything is used against the women of this movie in an attempt to strip them of the power that is rightfully theirs. Constant challenges face both Mary and Elizabeth in this sense. Protruding ideas of ownership and loyalty in the form of relationships is a very prominent theme in the film. However, neither queen would dare succumb to the impulses of men. Their strength and ferocity is a truly admirable trait.
Despite their reluctance, the men in this film fall into the background, blurring into a mass of very similar characters. Some would find it hard to distinguish who is who but, maybe that’s the point? With the film focusing on Mary and Elizabeth’s complex relationship with both each other and their subjects, there is no time to dwell on the inklings those of little importance to the story. A testament to the feminist take of this film, the relationships that do develop take second place to the rest of the plot.
Often with historical dramas, there tends to be an over embellishment of the love stories within them in an attempt to liven up the histories that are already known. They believe that the only way to keep you interested is to add some fluffy love into the mix. Mary Queen of Scots deters from this pattern. There is always something keeping you on your toes. Whether it is the ups and downs of Mary and Elizabeth’s relationship, the intricacies of family dynamics, or the similarities of Scotland and England’s subjects. Despite its slight historical inaccuracies, Mary Queen of Scots takes you on a whirlwind adventure. From love and betrayal, sisterhood, and battle, it has something that everyone can enjoy and that’s the beauty of historical drama isn’t it?