Director: Josie Rourke.
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Guy Pearce, Ian Hart, Jack Lowden, James McArdle, David Tennant, Joe Alwyn, Martin Compston, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Brendan Coyle, Adrian Lester, Gemma Chan.
|"If I hear one more Mr Ed joke, I'm turning this convoy around and taking us back to Scotland."|
This is even more unexpected when you consider the talented stars on board for the two key roles, who give their all. But despite the best efforts of Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, they can't save this unfortunately dull, emotionless and fragmented saga of royals and rebellion.
Ronan is the titular Mary, and the film follows her from her return from France to Scotland in 1561 as she attempts to assert her right as the presumptive heir of the English and Scottish throne. Meanwhile her cousin Queen Elizabeth I (Robbie) is torn between the advice of her privy council and her familial affection when it comes to Mary. Soon Mary's position is under threat from all sides as she sets about trying to produce an heir to rule over both countries.
While Ronan and Robbie (and indeed the entire cast) give excellent performances, the overall effect is one that is as cold as the hills of Scotland in winter. We never feel for anyone in particular. Even when the story's most interesting players are killed off one by one, there is no emotional weight to their deaths.
The film is also hamstrung by history in some ways. For one, its two main characters never met in real life. While I have no problem with films changing history for the sake of drama and tension, here a meeting is concocted that is utterly naff (and even laughable) and ultimately somewhat pointless, especially given what transpires after this scene. The so-called "rivalry" that's touted in the trailers sparks a little and then all of sudden we're at the end of the movie.
Instead, the story rolls on in a this-happened-then-this-happened-then-this-happened fashion. We never dwell on anything much to get a sense of emotional depth, or to feel anything. It's historically accurate in a dot-point kind of way, but I would happily trade that for something to get emotionally invested in. There is a void at the centre of this film where there needed to be some heart.
Technically, in many ways, the film is fine. It's often beautiful to look at, the costumes and make-up are excellent, and the production design is quite magnificent. But the script is lacking, which seems to be the crux of the problem. This is where the chill comes from that prevents any warmth, emotion or heart from seeping through the cold castle walls.