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Mary Queen of Scots

Josie Rourke

Josie Rourke, artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse, makes her film directing debut with this fierce historical drama. House of Cards showrunner Beau Willimon is an inspired choice for screenwriter as he illuminates the personal lives and political machinations of one of history’s most notorious rivalries, working largely from John Guy's biography Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart.

"... battles are fought, alliances tested and backs stabbed."

Three-time Academy Award nominee (including Best Actress for Lady Bird) Saoirse Ronan stars as the titular Mary, recently arrived in Scotland from France to take her place as Queen. Margot Robbie (who fittingly was also nominated for Best Actress last year for her role in I, Tonya) plays Queen Elizabeth I, Mary’s cousin, who is simultaneously a firm ally and a political rival. The two women struggle with their obvious respect and affection for one another and there is a melancholy side to the film as the differences between them are exploited by the patriarchal system which surrounds them. As the story progresses through the years, the lines between the personal and the political become blurred as battles are fought, alliances tested and backs stabbed.

With stunning Scottish scenery and wonderful costumes this film comes with all the trimmings you’d expect, but crucially, as with all good period dramas, where Mary Queen of Scots succeeds is in reflecting the present. This story of two independent, complex women challenged at every step by the men surrounding them feels very contemporary and strikingly relevant today.