The story of Mary Stuart’s rivalry with her cousin Queen Elizabeth for the English throne is the focus of the disappointing new costume drama Mary, Queen of Scots.
Directed by Josie Rourke, the movie tells the tale of how the Catholic Mary (Saoirse Ronan) wanted to be named the successor to the Protestant Queen Elizabeth (Margot Robbie). Elizabeth’s advisors do not want to give a Catholic that much power and are worried that Mary may not want to wait her turn.
Mary, Queen of Scots has the misfortune of opening in the same month as Yorgos Lanthimos’ superior costume drama, The Favourite. While The Favourite was full of energy and dark humor, Mary, Queen of Scots feels stiff and choppy. There is little connective tissue between the scenes. The Favourite was unafraid to portray its female leads as three-dimensional characters capable of kindness, cruelty, and everything in between. But Mary, Queen of Scots seems to believe that the characters would have been best friends if not for all of the dastardly, evil men surrounding them. Mary’s attempts to cram contemporary concerns into the story also feel clumsy and forced.
The costumes and makeup are top-notch, but the script makes Mary, Queen of Scots feel like a pretty package with nothing inside.