February 25, 2019  (Web Review)

Mary Queen of Scots

Universal, 124 min., R, DVD: $29.98, Blu-ray: $34.98, Feb. 26

Reviewer rating: 2.0/4

Hollywood’s fascination with female monarchs continues with this spectacularly photographed but slogging saga pitting vivacious Queen Mary Stuart (Saoirse Ronan), the devoutly Catholic daughter of Scotland’s King James V, against her cousin, Queen Elizabeth (Margot Robbie), the Protestant daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. An adaptation of British historian John Guy’s Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart (2004), director Josie Rourke’s tale of the tediously complex 16th-century feud regarding who should rightfully rule opens with a bit of a spoiler: Mary’s execution. For many years, the two principals exchanged letters and messages delivered by their scheming, often deceitful emissaries. Determined never to cede power to a man, Elizabeth Tudor refuses to wed, explaining that she is already married to her country. However, that does not prevent her from having a secret romance with Earl Robert Dudley (Joe Alwyn). Meanwhile in Scotland on their wedding night, 18-year-old Mary, who was previously married to France’s ill-fated King Francis II, catches her groom, Lord Darnley (Jack Lowden), with her openly gay courtier/friend David Rizzio (Ismael Cruz Córdova). Eventually, duplicitous Darnley, who yearns to rule as King alongside Mary, conspires to have Rizzio killed. Historians agree that the two Queens never met face-to-face, yet this revisionist interpretation features a fictionalized encounter after Mary flees to England to get away from her half-brother (James McArdle) and Protestant preacher John Knox (David Tennant). An Oscar nominee in the categories of Costume Design and Makeup and Hairstyling, this is an optional purchase. [Note: DVD/Blu-ray extras include audio commentary by director Josie Rourke and composer Max Richter, and the production featurettes “An Epic Confrontation” (4 min.), “Tudor Feminism” (4 min.), and “Something About Marys” (3 min.). Exclusive to the Blu-ray release is a bonus digital copy of the film. Bottom line: A solid extras package for a so-so historical costume drama.] (S. Granger)