Thursday, April 4, 2019

Mary Queen of Scots Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Allie Schembra
Mary Queen of Scots explores the turbulent life of the charismatic Mary Stuart (Academy Award nominee Saorise Ronan), Queen of France at 16, widowed at 18, Mary defies pressure to remarry and instead returns to her native Scotland to reclaim her rightful throne. By birth, she also has a rival claim to the throne of Elizabeth I (Academy Award nominee Margot Robbie), who rules as the Queen of England. Determined to rule as much more than a figurehead, Mary asserts her claim to the English throne, threatening Elizabeth’s sovereignty. Rivals in power and in love, the two Queens make very different choices about marriage and children. Betrayal, rebellion and conspiracies within each court imperil both Queens-driving them apart, as each woman experiences the bitter cost of power.

Film (4 out of 5 stars)
Mary Queen of Scots is the story of Mary Tudor, cousin to Queen Elizabeth 1. Returning to Scotland after the death of her husband, the King of France, 18-year-old Mary retakes the Scottish throne from her brother who has been serving in her stead. Voicing her claim to the British throne, Mary states her claim as more valid that current Queen Elizabeth I. This touches off a rivalry that is both contentious, and respectful. 

As Mary asserts her power in Scotland, she clashes with and dismisses members of her court. Elizabeth, wanting the lessen Mary’s power arranges for her to meet and marry an English Nobleman, Robert Dudley, the man who Elizabeth is secretly in love with. However, Mary and Dudley do not want to marry, but Elizabeth has offered to make Mary her heir, and when Elizabeth contracts smallpox, Mary agrees to marry Dudley because she believes Elizabeth is going to die. Elizabeth, not wanting to give up her love to Dudley, sends Lord Darnley to Scotland in order to worm his way into Mary’s court. Mary, sensing that this is a set up, eventually falls for Darnley and agrees to marry him. 

Both Mary’s and Elizabeth’s courts oppose Mary’s marriage to Darnley, but Mary marries him anyway.  The morning after the wedding, Mary finds Darnley in bed with her private secretary, Rizzio. Mary, wanting to quash the rumors, demands that Darnley give her a baby. With Mary finally pregnant, she declares him the heir to both the Scottish and English throne.  Unfortunately, the rumors grow and Mary is accused of having an affair with Rizzio and becoming pregnant by him. Afraid that their homosexual affair is going to be discovered, Darnley agrees to plot against Rizzio and when a group ambushes and kills him, Darnley delivers the final blow. Mary, angry and grieving, discovers it was a plot and agrees to pardon all involved if they can provide proof Darnley willingly participated. 

Mary and Elizabeth come to an agreement naming her child as heir to both kingdoms, and Mary asks Elizabeth to be the Godmother to her son. As punishment for his involvement in Rizzio’s death, Mary banishes Darnley but does not divorce him. This leads to Darnley’s murder, ordered by Mary’s council. With Darnley dead, Mary flees Scotland, leaving her son behind. She arrives in England and meets in secret with Elizabeth, who agrees to offer her sanctuary in return for Mary’s promise that she will not collude with Elizabeth’s enemies. However, eventually, Elizabeth receives evidence the Mary is plotting against her and orders her execution. Mary is beheaded, and after Elizabeth’s death, Mary’s son, James, becomes the first King of Scotland and England.

I really enjoyed this film. Mary Queen of Scots is a good retelling of the rivalry between two cousins, both with valid claims to the English throne. Both Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie were excellent in their roles as Mary and Elizabeth, respectively. The scenery is gorgeous, and very time-appropriate. 

I really enjoy historical stories, especially the history of the Tudors and Stuarts. Mary Queen of Scots is a great story of two women, each Queens in their own right, ruling as they see fit, and not bowing down to their council’s (all men, of course, as was the time) pressure to do things in the expected manner. Despite the rivalry, the two seemed to respect each other and their positions. A well-directed story, Mary Queen of Scots, while possibly not the most accurate retelling, kept me entertained the entire two hours.
Video (4 out of 5 stars)
The 1080p High Definition presentation of Mary Queen of Scots is lovely. The colors are sharp, the picture is clear, and the locations were well-chosen. Transitions between scenes were nearly flawless, with not many issues. I enjoyed seeing the story come to life on the screen.
Audio (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The English Dolby Atmos DVS sound was pretty good. The volume was a little uneven, with many quiet parts with extra loud moments. I could not watch it without keeping the remote control in my hand prepared to adjust the volume. That said, the cast was articulate and the dialogue was easily heard. Even the different accents were easily discernible and words were understood. If needed, subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish, and French.
Extras (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)
I enjoyed these special features, but felt that they could have been combined into one. I was also hoping for more of a history on the two women, and more of a look at how the movie was made.

  • An Epic Confrontation (3:58) – Behind the scenes with Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie discussing their one scene together. 
  • Tudor Feminism (3:35) – Discussion of the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth I by cast and crew.
  • Something about Marys (2:24) – Behind the scenes with the women who played Mary’s court… all characters named Mary.
  • Feature Commentary with Director Josie Rourke and Composer Max Richter
Summary (3 out of 5 stars)
Overall, I really enjoyed Mary Queen of Scots, but considering the remaining factors, the score was brought down. Mary Queen of Scots is a lovely movie, with excellent acting and a good story. If you are a fan of historical fiction and can set aside what you know, for Hollywood’s take on the story, you may enjoy this story.

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