MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS (2018) is an entertaining take on an interesting period of English history, in which both Scotland and England were ruled by strong women, Mary and Elizabeth. While every aspect of the film exudes competence from the settings and costumes to the cast (Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Guy Pearce, Jack Lowden, etc.), there’s a lack of a transcendent story line that ties it all together, resulting in a film that moves in fits and starts.
In the 1500s, Henry VIII’s daughter Elizabeth I is queen of England, while Mary, who’d been wed to the French king, lives in France. When the king dies, she returns to Scotland to claim her throne. Through the bloodline, she actually has a strong claim to England’s throne as well. A Catholic taking the throne in Scotland causes turmoil, and if Mary were to become queen of England, it might provoke civil war. Meanwhile, both Mary and Elizabeth struggle as women in a masculine world, as marrying would mean surrendering independence and power.
The film offers quite a bit of promise in the cordial but strained relationship between these two monarchs, but much of the film deals with Mary struggling with consolidating power in Scotland. Everything works well for the viewer except after the terrific setup, the plot stumbles from one challenge to the next without a cohesive narrative tying it together. For me, this made MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS a pretty good, but not a great, movie. Overall, I give it a B+.