It is inevitable to notice how much contrast there was in in the lives of Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I. How much women in their time fought for the power to be heard. If you’re wondering how these rival queens are related here’s the quick guide. Mary Queen of Scots’ grandmother was Margaret, Queen of Scots who was also King Henry VIII’s older sister and as we know Queen Elizabeth I’s father was King Henry VIII. So that is how these two queens are related, they are cousins. Their rivalry over England’s throne is one that we know from the many Elizabeth biopics that exist, it is based on Elizabeth’s parentage (remember her mother was Anne Boleyn).
The movie started off and moves rather quickly rightfully so as historically these events happened over several years, so the movie proceeds by marking important events in Mary’s life in the span of two hours. You do have to follow closely as the narrative moves very quickly; however, it does not bombard you with information about the plot which lets the characters carry the story through until the end. There are a few spots where the audience is expected to assume Elizabeth’s romantic relationship with Lord Dudley, Elizabeth’s royal advisor and his motives, Mary’s half-brother and his involvement with England, but most notably there is not a clear marker of how much time has passed.
Director Josie Rourke covered a lot of ground by marking the important life passages in Mary’s life which mirrored those of the roles women were expected to fulfill at the time but which resonate even today. Saoirse Ronan (Mary) is radiant on screen, this is one of her best performances yet. She transcends the audience into Mary’s struggle to prove herself among the men who undermine her authority when she proves time and time again that she is the boss, that she knows what she wants. Margot Robbie’s (Elizabeth I) performance is suitably quiet yet strong. We’re so used to seeing films about Queen Elizabeth I and her reign or her lovers, but this is not that film. This one is particularly about Queen Mary and her fight to a throne that was rightfully hers. You can expect the men to grotesquely enjoy weaving lies and plots to have these two women against each other. Why? Why else if not to be king. Because there is nothing more attractive than watching men moving two monarchs across like game pieces to gain power themselves. They will build them up only to bring them down.
This is a great approach to a different perspective that we don’t normally see in film. We’re so tired of seeing Elizabeth I biopics what about everyone else? There are so many other stories this one waited too long to be told but it was desperately needed.
Mary Queen of Scots premieres Friday, Dec. 07.