Mary Queen of Scots, directed by Josie Rourke is a film that feels as if it’s constantly going around in circles; never achieving anything impactful, never feeling like a film that’s finding a purpose or drive that results in something meaningful. Sadly, there’s not much I was ever able to find compelling about this film… but maybe there’s something in it that makes it worth seeing; maybe there’s something that makes it worth seeing. So, let’s get into the review and see if there’s anything that makes it worthwhile.
The film explores the turbulent life and attempted reign of Mary Queen of Scots – played by Saoirse Ronan – as she battles not only her cousin, Queen Elizabeth – played by Margot Robbie – but also her supposed allies in her own circle of advisors. But those battles are not with swords and armies, but with betrayal and backstabbing. It’s a battle in which only one can prevail.
I’m someone who has no problem with a slow film. In fact, I often find myself in the minority when it comes to my positive reaction to slower films. When a film takes its time and gives over its full focus to a character, a theme or a story, etc. It can often result in a meaningful and deeply rich exploration of said element. For example, I just recently went back and watched M. Night Shyamalan’s 2000 movie, Unbreakable, in preparation for the upcoming follow-up, Glass, and that is a slow movie, but in all the best ways. All of those elements that I just listed off are all things a film like Unbreakable greatly explores because it takes its time, which ultimately results in a lot of compelling, meaningful offerings for the audience.
Where am I going with all of this? Well, there are plenty of times where a slow film just doesn’t work for me, and usually the reason for that is that in that slowness; in that pace that feels cripplingly dragged out, there is absolutely NOTHING of note or merit that happens, and sadly that is very much the case with, Mary Queen of Scots. It is a film that is both excruciatingly slow and also completely devoid of any noticeable substance that draws you in and causes you to care about the characters and the story before you.
And what I think is the films biggest problem and why it feels like nothing is happening, is that this is a film that continuously feels like it’s going around in circles. There’s betrayal, back-stabbing, attempts at political gain, test of strength and will, etc. That sounds like it should offer an experience full of compelling, engaging scenes where you’re hooked to seeing how Mary will foil or out-manoeuvre the next attempt on her reign, but sadly… it really doesn’t.
Instead characters have the same interactions over and over again. Dialogue begins to feel repetitive, as characters go about having the same disputes as they had a few scenes ago. It’s a film that goes around and around and never seems to get anywhere. Though when it does, it’s either not a very interesting outcome (often being quite predictable) or it’s too late to ever really care.
Which was in fact the most damning thing to end up happening to the film; I simply gave up caring. That’s in large part because the film with all its repetitive plot points and cyclical dialogue, there ends up being a total failing on the part of the characters. Mary and the people around her were never people I found myself connected too; I never empathised for them during their struggles. It was an assortment of characters who simply seemed to be there to serve the plot’s needs, and when it didn’t need them, they were pushed to the side and mishandled.
What ends up being the biggest loss in the film is Queen Elizabeth and the characterisation of her. She has the most compelling elements to her and she is the one who I found myself wanting to explore more of. But both her and Margot Robbie are relegated to a minor role, leaving the film to focus on people and storylines that never capture your interest or have you eager to keep watching.
All the actors involved certainly deliver some good performances, but it’s sadly the case that many of them are given very little to work with, and when they do have a moment to stretch their acting muscles and show how talented they are; it doesn’t amount to anything. It’s because while they are putting every ounce of emotion into those particular moments, we the audience have checked out quite some time ago, and thus have no care to muster for the weakly developed hardship they are currently facing.
In the end, the only positive point I find myself gleaming from Mary Queen of Scots lies in the fantastic work by both the costume department and the hair and make-up department. There are some real standout costumes in this film, and they bring a real edge to what is a mostly blunt looking film – and it’s the same with the great work of the hair and make-up team.
Beyond that though, I struggle to find any point of positivity to focus in on. Mary Queen of Scots really is that bland, that uninteresting and that forgettable. There’s so much richness to be mined from these historical figures and the time period they inhabited, but sadly this film was never able to muster anything worth talking about.
And so, I can’t see any reason why I would recommend, Mary Queen of Scots. I don’t want to speak negatively about this film anymore; it seems unfair to do so. So I’ll simply finish by suggesting you leave this film to a streaming service watch and in the meantime seek out any other of the worthwhile offerings in the cinema.
Let me know what you thought of the film and my review of it by leaving a wee comment down below. If you liked what you read, then please consider following both my blog and my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings. Lastly, I want to thank you for stopping by and giving my review a read; I really appreciate it. Anyway, have a wonderful day, and thank you once more.