I’m not sure how accurate “Mary Queen of Scots” is, based on the characters, race, and narrative. Did Mary Stuart have an African American ambassador? Did Queen Elizabeth have an Asian Lady in Waiting? First-time director Josie Rourke believes in diversity, and refuses to cast an all-white cast.
I’ve heard various stories about Mary Stuart, and I looked up a few things about her. Her marriage to Lord Darnley and then the Earl of Bothwell, her son and heir to the throne, and her failed plot to assassinate her cousin Queen Elizabeth, which lead to her execution. The movie is accurate on these details, but somehow, it never seems to educate. It’s more of a show than a lesson.
Saoirse Ronan (a wonderful Irish actress) plays Mary, and she’s very good in the ways she executed her emotions, dignity, and strong-will. Irish and Scottish accents basically sound the same, I suppose. Margot Robbie (disguised by make-up) plays Elizabeth, and she’s fine when she keeps herself in check. The cast also includes Jack Lowden as Darnley, Martin Compston as the Earl of Bothwell, Joe Alwyn as Elizabeth’s lover Robert Dudley, David Tennent as minister John Knox, and Guy Pearce as Elizabeth’s advisor William Cecil.
The movie presents Mary’s idea to become Elizabeth’s successor to the throne, and her son-the future king-would help finish her reign. It also shows us her unhappy marriages, as well as Elizabeth’s decision to never have heirs, but to rule until her dying day. And with all this going on, Scotland has turned against Mary.
The acting and costumes in “Mary Queen of Scots” are uniformly fine. It gives the actors dialogue, tone, and temptations, and they look fascinating. The queens keep up with their hairstyles and dresses; and their make-up paints them a bit.
But that’s all the movie is good for. It doesn’t elaborate on the history, one-liners are provided, and it ends up being difficult to care about. I can’t rely on one-liners to teach me; I have to read the historical characters and their lives without much embellishment. That’s what the movie basically does: it embellishes characters for various reasons-race, humor, and words. It’s not enough to make it a masterpiece.
And I got a bit confused every time Mary and Elizabeth referred to each other as sisters. I almost thought the movie thought they were, but I guess it’s a saying of theirs. But then again, what do I know? I’m no historian.