Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Movie with Abe: Mary Queen of Scots

Mary Queen of Scots
Directed by Josie Rourke
Released December 7, 2018

Game of Thrones” may be entirely fictional, but centuries-long struggles over who is the rightful heir to a particular throne are frequent throughout history, especially with changing borders and conquering empires. Times have changed considerably so that challenging rulers aren’t deposed and disposed of with ease, and the speed with which news travels creates far less confusion as subjects no longer await correspondence about the latest influential events. The notion of men as being more capable, unfortunately, has not changed much throughout history, and there is nothing more threatening to masculinity than the idea of a woman in power.

Mary Stuart (Saoirse Ronan) is sent from Scotland to France at age sixteen, where she weds and becomes queen, only to be widowed two years later. Mary returns to Scotland intent on claiming the throne that she deserves, something that does not sit well with the advisers of her cousin Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie), who rules over England. Mary’s Catholicism is just one of the obstacles she faces, including choosing a husband (Jack Lowden) that she desires rather than the one (Joe Alwyn) sent by Elizabeth as a political power play.

This film is a historical drama about two monarchs, both of whom find themselves manipulated at every turn by the men who seek to control them or oust them outright, supported only by the loyal handmaidens that stay by their sides. Their relationship is explored as they write letters to each other and forge a bond that runs deeper than all of the context that must define the way they communicate and see the future. Both exude strength in the face of extraordinary discord, when even those who seem most devoted, including the men they choose to be with, have ulterior motives that are revealed through their duplicitous and controlling actions.

Both Ronan and Robbie received Oscar nominations last year, for their leading roles in “Lady Bird” and “I, Tonya,” respectively. Here, their turns are far more reserved and contemplative, emblematic of the way in which they had to show force and perseverance with so few true supporters around them. The film’s costumes and set design enhance these quiet lead performances infused with occasional displays of passion and fortitude. The history is undeniably interesting, and the juxtaposition of these two formidable women is an effective framing device. The film tries to capture the essence of its protagonists and their time but never fully feels as authentic or vital as it should.


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