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MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS.

MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS

Directed by Josie Rourke (Focus Features, 2018)

The 16th-century Queen of Scotland, Mary Stuart--a.k.a., Mary, Queen of Scots--lived during turbulent times. She ascended the throne at just 6 days old and was widowed (for the first time) while still a teenager. Life was hard. But Mary had some physical advantages. Known as a tall beauty with striking red hair, Mary's looks come with a sharp, headstrong edge as portrayed by Irish actress Saoirse Ronan in Mary, Queen of Scots.

The movie purports to follow the relationship between Mary and her cousin Queen Elizabeth I of England, depicted as a jealous, homely, and--although very powerful--rather unenig-matic counterpart. At the beginning of the film, Mary returns to Scotland from France, where her short-lived marriage to the French king's heir was intended to unite Scotland and France. There's complicated history here. In England, Elizabeth took the throne after her father Henry VIII's death. That would be the Henry who beheaded Elizabeth's mother (Anne Boleyn) and broke from the Catholic Church over his efforts to annul his marriage to his first wife. Some English Catholics perceived Elizabeth as illegitimate and Mary as the rightful English heir (as the grandchild of Henry VIII's eldest sister). For the two queens, Mary and Elizabeth, this was key to their rivalry.

Ronan gracefully maneuvers the narrative threads, imbuing Mary with confidence and tenacity--a heroine who becomes the victim of the treachery and brutality around her. Margot Robbie's physical transformation into a sexless monarch who solidifies her power by never marrying is the most intriguing aspect of her performance. This is not a film, really, about two queens (consider the film's title). And yet, the greatest threat to Mary is Elizabeth. If you don't get caught up in some narrative weaknesses, it's an enjoyable--embellished--look at one of the most charismatic female figures in history.

--Ann Christenson

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Title Annotation:watch
Author:Christenson, Ann
Publication:U.S. Catholic
Article Type:Movie review
Date:Apr 1, 2019
Words:313
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