Director: Josie Rourke

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie

Year: 2018

A clear and early favorite for the 2018 Best Picture, or at least a shoe-in for either a Best Actress, a Best Supporting Actress, or both, Mary Queen of Scots floated onto the scene in December and underwhelmed us all.  A historical epic, a passionate true story, two of the best actors working today, and lovely accoutrement abounding; it’s shocking that this big of a deal made such little impact, but watching it only reveals the truth; that it simply wasn’t capable of anything huge.  Its lowered ceiling sat upon the project like a shroud, darkening all prospects and keeping a cover over anything beautiful that was trying to be seen.  I blame amateur director Josie Rourke almost exclusively; the ingredients were there to make Mary Queen of Scots a marvel, but the slapdash execution simply failed to live up to its original potential.

Mary Stuart, Queen of the Scots, claimant to the throne of England, returns home to Scotland after her French husband dies, stepping into a battle between religions and a fight for the right to rule the British Isles.  Queen Elizabeth of England is Protestant, while Protestants and Catholics vie for control of Scotland, with Mary in the middle.  Mary is related to Elizabeth, has a claim to the throne should she die, and wants her future children to have a place in the lineage of English kings, if Elizabeth should never have heirs of her own.  But the Protestants will never accept a Catholic Queen, and the people of Scotland are continually fighting among themselves, sometimes with the Queen’s financial support, sometimes led by Scottish nobles like the Earl of Moray, Mary’s half-brother.  When she marries another Stuart, creating a strong alliance, her presence in the north is finally seen as potentially dangerous, and Elizabeth will have to decide the fate of not only one woman, but of an entire nation.

Had the film been handled by a different director, its upper limits could have been much, much higher; the individual pieces show you quite clearly that the sky was once the limit.  But a first-time director at the helm cranked down the dome until it smothered all possibilities, and that’s a real bummer.  I applaud going with a female director to mold a female-driven film, but unfortunately Rourke wasn’t the right choice, she never knew what to do, and the film suffered unimaginably.  What should have been an Oscar-contender and an awards-vehicle turned into a boring charade, and that’s a pure shame.  The movie was nominated for two Academy Awards: Makeup and Costume, and both were well-deserved.  The visuals were great, as was the historic element; I love seeing history come to life in this way.  The leads were excellent, especially Ronan, while Robbie flew a bit under the radar with a part that was smaller than I had anticipated, especially in volume of lines.  And I liked the supporting cast: James McArdle, Guy Pearce, Joe Alwyn, Ian Hart, Brendan Coyle, Jack Lowden.  But the movie was surprisingly lifeless, with a dull quality that I was shocked to watch, when the story should have been so vigorous.  Bad directing and a bad screenplay led to many missed opportunities here, and that’s a true pity.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆



By ochippie

Writer, Critic, Dad Columbus, Ohio, USA Denver Broncos, St. Louis Cardinals Colorado Avalanche, Duke Blue Devils