Movie Review: “Mary Queen of Scots”

Updated on May 30, 2020
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There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Mary Queen of Scots

Theatrical Release: 12/21/2018
Theatrical Release: 12/21/2018 | Source


Mary (Saoirse Ronan) is the Queen of Scots and she has returned home from her time in France. Now that she is back she has her sights set on the throne of England. She does not want to overthrow the current queen, but she wants to be recognized as the rightful heir to the throne. The problem with this is that Mary’s cousin (the current Queen of England) sees this as a personal insult.

Queen Elizabeth (Margot Robbie) is insulted by Mary’s demands. She sees it as an insult to the fact that she has not married, and the fact that she has not had a child (an heir of her own). This starts a bitter feud between the two queens, as they both try to resolve this conflict in a way that makes themselves come across as the “victor”, but rumors quickly start spreading about a dark rumor regarding Queen Elizabeth’s health. It all starts as a civil request by Mary to be named as successor to Elizabeth’s crown, but quickly turns into a heated rivalry that lasts for a quarter of a century.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

The Pros
The Cons
Mary & Elizabeth (+3pts)
Mary (-6pts)
Saoirse Ronan (+8pts)
Too Much (-6pts)
Margot Robbie (+4pts)
Men (-4pts)
All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

Pro: Mary & Elizabeth (+3pts)

This movie was at its best when it was focusing on the feud between these two historical figures. The two are cousins, but they have two very different lives. One sits upon England’s throne and has immense power at her disposal, and fears losing that power or hurting her reputation. The other is the Queen of Scots, but very much wants to sit on her cousin’s throne and will do everything she can to fulfill that dream.

The two have a heated rivalry. Through everything else that occurs in the movie, it is this feud that looms over every decision made by these two characters. The movie is boring in some areas, but it was this feud that kept me watching. My only complaint was that the feud did not get the focus that it deserved. I liked what we saw of the feud, I just did not think we saw enough of it. That being said, the scene where the two finally meet still felt pretty impactful, once I got past the silliness of the hanging cloth (you will know what I mean if you see the movie).


Con: Mary (-6pts)

This movie was about Mary, it was not about Mary and Elizabeth. I liked the feud between these characters, but I do not think it was developed properly because the filmmakers decided to focus so heavily on Mary’s story. The characters go back and forth with respect to how they view each other, and that constant flip-flopping felt unjustified because the feud was not developed as it should have been. Instead of focusing on the best part of the story, the filmmakers decided to focus on telling as much of Mary’s story as possible (while somewhat neglecting Elizabeth).

We see a lot of Mary’s struggle for power within her own kingdom. Mary certainly did not have an easy road but, as crazy as her life was, it distracts from the better part of the movie (the feud between her and Queen Elizabeth). Mary certainly did not have a boring story, but it felt like the filmmakers got distracted from telling the story that they initially intended. Right up front, they setup the feud between these two Queens, then they get sidetracked and get caught-up telling Mary’s story before finally coming back around to the feud at the end of the film. Unfortunately, by the time they got back to focusing on the feud, they had lost quite a bit of momentum. It was like listening to someone tell a story, then they go on a massive tangent. It was not that the tangent was not interesting on its own, but it was a distraction from (and ended up hurting the impact of) the main story.


Pro: Saoirse Ronan (+8pts)

Saoirse Ronan did an absolutely fantastic job in this movie. Her character suffers through a ton of tragic moments throughout the course of this story and Saoirse Ronan did a great job of playing this character through it all. She suffers through a lot, but remains hopeful and does not sway from her goal of getting what she thinks she deserves. It was an interesting character that got plenty of focus in this movie. There are some uneventful lulls throughout the movie, but Saoirse Ronan kept me in hopeful anticipation of her next tragic scene. She is a very talented actress, and absolutely carried this movie.


Con: Too Much (-6pts)

In addition to losing focus of telling the story of Mary‘s feud with Queen Elizabeth, the filmmakers also got caught-up with trying to tell too much of Mary’s story. We end up seeing a large portion of Mary’s life, and it is not always exciting. Are there some exciting moments? Absolutely but, by trying to tell so much, the filmmakers made a movie that feels longer than it is and becomes boring at times. Queen Mary lived a very complicated life. It was too complicated to fit into a single two hour period, but the filmmakers tried to squeeze as much of it in there as possible. Not all of it was necessary for this movie and, by refining it, the filmmakers could have solved a lot of this movie’s problems.


Pro: Margot Robbie (+4pts)

Margot Robbie was great as Queen Elizabeth. She was completely captivating whenever she was on screen but, as mentioned before, this was Mary’s story. In this movie, Queen Elizabeth does not get a ton of screen time. When she does, however, I found the character to be a captivating enigma and I believe Margot Robbie was the main reason why. She played the character as if she always had something to hide and as if she always is planning her next move.

Queen Elizabeth goes through more growth than Mary, because of what she is forced to deal with. I am not going to get into the details here, in the event that you do not already know the story, but Margot Robbie did a fantastic job of bringing every single ounce of this character’s pain to the screen. The character kept her composure, but it was clear that she was absolutely boiling with emotion. This made the character so compelling to watch. Queen Elizabeth was an interesting character, sure, but Margot Robbie masterfully brought the compelling nature of that character to the screen.


Con: Men (-4pts)

Now, I will be completely honest in saying that history was far from my best subject in school, and I know very little about Queen Mary’s story. However, the portrayal of men in this movie felt like a blatant attempt at pandering to the feminist movement in our society. Almost all of the men in this movie were evil, despicable people and the reasoning we were given was that they were men. The only somewhat decent man was the one homosexual character in the movie.

Do not get me wrong, there are some terrible men out there, and I am sure there were plenty in Mary’s life. Times are changing and it is about time. Any man in today’s world who sees wonen as less than, just because they are women, has no place in our society. It is really as simple as that. However, this (the fact that all of the straight men in this movie were evil) just came across as a lazy generalization, and lazy filmmaking, in an attempt to capitalize on a movement that the story did not naturally call for.

Grading Scale


Grade: C- (74pts)

Mary Queen of Scots tells the story of Mary, who was the Queen of the Scots (I know, mind boggling). What made her story so interesting was that Mary’s cousin was Queen Elizabeth (the reigning queen of England). The two were cousins, and ruled sister countries, but Mary wanted more for her legacy. The feud between these two queens was an interesting one, but I felt like the filmmakers lost sight of this aspect of the story.

The filmmakers got so caught up in telling Mary’s story, that they neglected to develop the feud properly. Sure, her story was an interesting one, but the most compelling aspect of this movie was the feud that felt like it took the back burner to everything else. Regardless of this, both Soairse Ronan and Margot Robbie did fantastic jobs in their respective roles (with Saoirse playing the main character of the movie so obviously getting far more screen time). It was an interesting story, with great performances, but I felt like the filmmakers missed the mark in their execution. They tried to cram too much of Mary’s story in here, which made the film feel long and slow. It was not a ”bad” movie, but if fell very short from its potential.


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