- “Mary Queen Of Scots was born a Catholic. As Protestants fight to control Scotland, the infant Mary is sent to Catholic France. At 15, she marries the heir to the throne.
At 18, Mary is widowed and returns home. Scotland is now dominated by Protestants, and governed by her half-brother.
Elizabeth is England’s Protestant Queen. By birth, Mary has a strong claim to England’s throne. Her very existence threatens Elizabeth’s power.”
Personally, I was never any good at history in school, and didn’t much care for it as a result, but I enjoy a decent drama, and this one has two good leads in the Irish Saoirse Ronan playing Scottish Mary Stuart, and Australian Margot Robbie playing English Queen Elizabeth I.
Confused? Well, you shouldn’t be, since Andy Serkis was born in England, yet has played Gollum, who comes from Middle Earth.
The film begins in England, 1587, where Mary’s situation is not looking too good, but then goes back some years to 1561. Mary wants to take over from cousin Elizabeth in due course, and she wants the latter to step down at that time with this intention, a bit like when Gordon Brown wanted Tony Blair to do the same, but the latter closet Tory held on for as long as he could.
What follows is a constant back and forth stream of correspondence between the two, with romantic issues cropping up on both sides – proving true love is just as unpredictable then as it is now, civil war tensions hotting up between England and Scotland, but since my knowledge of most Royal history is non-existent, it at least gives me a full lesson about the time, although one element has annoyed purists, since the pair never crossed paths, and yet there’s an imagined scene between Mary Stuart and Queen Elizabeth I meeting in a 16th Century laundrette.
Perhaps if you’re really into historical dramas, then you’ll really enjoy this, but given my stance on these, I was hoping for at least some way to make it more accessible, as well as the two leads lifting it, but neither of those two targets were met. However, both the two leads do show their mettle, and there are many stunning vistas to take in.
The film has a crystal clear picture on Blu-ray, with a pleasing accompanying score. The extras are as follows, but the three featurettes are very brief filler, and nothing to write home about:
- An Epic Confrontation (3:58): The fictionalised meeting between the two.
- Tudor Feminism (3:35): Girl power on the set, including how the director is a woman, etc.
- Something About Marys (2:24): All four of Queen Mary’s assistants have the first name Mary.
- Audio description: Does exactly what it says on the tin.
- Audio commentary: with director Josie Rourke and composer Max Richter
The main menu shows a still shot of the two leads as per one of the posters with the golden background, and composer Max Richter’s The Shores Of Scotland. Subtitles are in many languages as described below, and the film also has 20 chapters. If I wanted to nitpick, then given how I prefer one every five minutes, that would make 25 for this film, but either way, it’s still a lot better than most discs out there from any other studio, who go for 12 most of the film, however long a film is.
Running time: 125 minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures UK
Released: May 20th 2019
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: Dolby Atmos, DTS 5.1 HD-MA
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Dolby Vision)
Disc Format: BD50
Languages: English (Dolby Atmos), French, Italian, Castilian Spanish
Subtitles: English, French, Italian, Castilian Spanish, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, Portuguese, Greek, Arabic, Icelandic
Director: Josie Rourke
Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward
Screenplay: Beau Willimon
Novel: John Guy (“Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart”)
Music: Max Richter
Mary Stuart: Saoirse Ronan
Queen Elizabeth I: Margot Robbie
William Cecil, advisor to Queen Elizabeth: Guy Pearce
John Knox: David Tennant
Lord Darnley: Jack Lowden
Robert Dudley: Joe Alwyn
Elizabeth Hardwick: Gemma Chan
Earl of Bothwell: Martin Compston
David Rizzio: Ismael Cruz Córdova
Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox: Brendan Coyle
Lord Maitland: Ian Hart
Lord Thomas Randolph: Adrian Lester
Earl of Moray: James McArdle
Mary Fleming: Maria-Victoria Dragus
Mary Beaton: Eileen O’Higgins
Mary Seton: Izuka Hoyle
Mary Livingston: Liah O’Prey
Walter Mildmay: Alex Beckett
Robert Beale: Simon Russell Beale
James VI: Andrew Rothney
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.