Movie Review: 'Mary Queen Of Scots' In the lush historical tragedy, Mary Queen of Scots, Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie play the title character, and her cousin and nemesis Queen Elizabeth.
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Movie Review: 'Mary Queen Of Scots'

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Movie Review: 'Mary Queen Of Scots'

Review

Movie Reviews

Movie Review: 'Mary Queen Of Scots'

Movie Review: 'Mary Queen Of Scots'

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In the lush historical tragedy, Mary Queen of Scots, Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie play the title character, and her cousin and nemesis Queen Elizabeth.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

It is sometimes said that historians reveal as much about their own era as they do about the eras they scrutinize. Critic Bob Mondello says that is also true of historical movies, including the new costume epic "Mary Queen Of Scots."

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: The year is 1561, and Mary, who has just been widowed by the king of France, has returned to claim her throne in Scotland.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS")

SAOIRSE RONAN: (As Mary Stuart) England does not look so different from Scotland.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Aye, they are sisters.

MONDELLO: She's a Catholic. Her cousin Elizabeth, who is a Protestant, rules in England. And this presents a potential difficulty because they both have legitimate though somewhat problematic claims to the English throne. Mary sends a polite note suggesting they talk.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS")

RONAN: (As Mary Stuart) My dear cousin Elizabeth, I hope we might meet in person, that I might embrace you. But ruling side by side, we must do so in harmony, not through a treaty drafted by men lesser than ourselves.

MONDELLO: Elizabeth's inclined to agree.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS")

MARGOT ROBBIE: (As Queen Elizabeth I) Let our nations cherish each other as we would, two kingdoms united.

MONDELLO: But Elizabeth's privy council is horrified.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) If you grant her succession, we are rewarding her disobedience.

ROBBIE: (As Queen Elizabeth I) What disobedience? She is not our subject.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) And yet you would make us hers.

MONDELLO: So, OK, it's complicated - has been since Hollywood tackled the story in 1936 with Katharine Hepburn and Florence Eldridge, and it didn't get any simpler when Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson were the queens or Cate Blanchett and Samantha Morton. This time it's Margot Robbie as Elizabeth arguing with her obstreperous all-male court in England.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) Mary is our foe and a Catholic.

ROBBIE: (As Queen Elizabeth I) She is only your queen if I should not produce an heir.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) And will you, madam, for you have given us little hope so far.

MONDELLO: Saoirse Ronan is Mary, riding herd over a brogueier (ph), rowdier and downright insubordinate all-male court in Scotland.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #5: (As character) Reckless child, do not let your cursed passion rule you.

RONAN: (As Mary Stuart) Tis your voice raised, sir. And you would lower it in my presence.

MONDELLO: "House Of Cards" creator Beau Willimon wrote the script, and he lets his queenly cousins share a kind of sisterly solidarity as they deal in a very modern way with intrenched casually misogynistic male courtiers.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #6: (As character) We have a scourge upon our land - a woman with a crown.

MONDELLO: Let it be said that both queendoms are diverse racially and interestingly complicated in terms of sexual preference, which makes for some fun gender and power dynamics. The script is sufficiently of our moment in that respect - that it's good that first-time film director Josie Rourke provides lots of period gorgeousness - armies marching down majestic hillsides, chilly castles plus an intriguing explanation for why Elizabeth wore pasty white makeup in her portraits. Mary and Elizabeth movies often ignore facts when they're inconvenient. The real Mary apparently had a French accent, for instance, and there's no evidence that the two queens ever met. But not to bring them together for verbal fireworks - that would be silly, right?

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS")

ROBBIE: (As Queen Elizabeth I) You would do well to watch your words.

RONAN: (As Mary Stuart) I will not be scolded by my inferior.

ROBBIE: (As Queen Elizabeth I) Your inferior?

MONDELLO: The filmmakers have come up with a nifty, billowing fabric sequence to keep them apart while together, and that's enough to satisfy my urge to fact check, at least when the performances are as much fun as they are in "Mary Queen of Scots." Yeah, yeah, I know - off with my head. I'm Bob Mondello.

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