Having just been to Edinburgh, I have been waiting for weeks to see this film. It did not disappoint. The life of Mary Stuart was tragic and the movie certainly proved that. While in another life, I’m convinced that Mary and Elizabeth could have figured out a way to be friends and maybe even co-rulers, however, dominating and power hungry men got in their way. The movie starts with a flash back from Mary’s execution in 1587 to her arrival on a Scottish beach 25 years earlier. Mary, a widow yet only 18 years old, thrives and tests the limits of her independence, surrounded by her affectionate ladies (and David Rizzio) in waiting, while her threated and introvert “sister”, Elizabeth, hides behind elaborate costumes and wigs ruling the country.
“Mary Queen of Scots” explores the turbulent life of the charismatic Mary Stuart (Ronan). Queen of France at 16 and widowed at 18, Mary defies pressure to remarry. Instead, she returns to her native Scotland to reclaim her rightful throne. But Scotland and England fall under the rule of the compelling Elizabeth I (Robbie). Each young Queen beholds her “sister” in fear and fascination. Rivals in power and in love, and female regents in a masculine world, the two must decide how to play the game of marriage versus independence. Determined to rule as much more than a figurehead, Mary asserts her claim to the English throne, threatening Elizabeth’s sovereignty. Betrayal, rebellion, and conspiracies within each court imperil both thrones – and change the course of history.
The costume designer is Alexandra Byrne, who won an Oscar for her work on “Elizabeth: The Golden Age.” Byrne was successful once again.
History has generally treated Mary as a villain, and “Mary Queen of Scots” seeks both to revise this judgment and to examine its sources in misogyny, nationalism and bigotry. I couldn’t help but feel sad for Mary and at times, maybe even feelings of hatred towards Elizabeth. Elizabeth was jealous of her “sister”, who had it all, beauty, bravery and motherhood. Mary is Catholic on a Protestant island, and that makes her a threat. Her own lords, even her largely sympathetic half-brother James Murray (McArdle), see her as a possible fifth columnist who might sneak the Pope back into the country.
While watching, you have to keep in mind this isn’t a documentary, it is a categorized as historical drama…and it certainly doesn’t lack drama. Personally, I loved it and definitely suggest you go see it in theaters!
Focus Features presents a film directed by Josie Rourke and written by Beau Willimon, based on “Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart,” by John Guy. Rated R (for some violence and sexuality). Running time: 125 minutes. Opened December 14, showing at the Rio Theater in Overland Park. Limited showing in Kansas City.