By John H. Foote
This story is by now, very familiar having been told in the film Mary, Queen of Scots (1971) with no less than Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson, in Elizabeth I (2005) with Helen Mirren and Elizabeth, The Golden Age (2007) with Cate Blanchett. What I am saying, I suppose, is enough already! Surely there are other stories that pit two
Everyone knows the history, cousins, each with a claim to the British throne, divided by their religions, they quietly endure one another. Mary (Saoirse Ronan) is set up as Queen in Scotland,
We all know where this goes. Spain wants Elizabeth out because she champions the Protestant faith, they are willing to have her killing and install the Catholic Mary on the throne.
Elizabeth, aware of being a target does not wish to kill her cousin, a woman with a legal claim to
The most interesting as peat of the film is the bringing together two of last years Best Actress nominees, Ronan and Robbie, two of the most gifted actresses of their generation.
Ronan has dazzled since Atonement (2007), and The Lovely Bones (2010) both of which she stole from under the nose of her co-stars. She was extraordinary in Hanna (2012
Here as Mary, she is a spitfire, her hair blazing as red as her spirit, a courageous woman seeking what she believes is her birthright. In previous films, Mary has often been an imprisoned woman under guard, living well, but a prisoner nonetheless. Messages were brought to her and sent through a network of spies connected to Spain, who would eventually attack England, losing their great navy to the shallow waters off the channel. Ronan is a very convincing Mary, but because we have seen so many recent versions of the story, much is lost in impact due to familiarity.
Robbie’s is a revelation as Elizabeth, though hers is very much a supporting role. Initially stunning in her beauty, she is
Robbie came known to audiences and critics in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013), as Harley Quinn, the most exciting character in Suicide Squad (2016), and last year was nominated alongside Ronan for Best Actress as Tonya Harding in
The biggest problem with the film is it’s familiar, too much so, from being told too often recently. Yes, we have two great actresses, but they are doing what Cate Blanchett or Helen Mirren or Samantha Morton did before them.
The art direction and especially the costumes are highlights, particularly those of Mary against dour Scotland.
Interesting for the actresses, Robbie might land a supporting actress nomination, the costumes are likely to be nominated but the film will be quickly forgotten.
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.