Mary Queen of Scots (2018)

If you murder me, remember you murder your sister, and you murder your queen.

Mary Stuart

That this is not historically accurate hardly needs stating but: this is not historically accurate.

It is not without value, though. Yes, in this age of post-truth and fake news, to see another example of a loose interpretation of the facts might be a little disheartening but I think this movie is a really interesting twenty-first century analysis of sixteenth century politics, gender roles and general shenanigans.

The acting, of course, is superb. Margot Robbie as Elizabeth I brings a vulnerability to an undeniably strong woman and, while I doubt that her relationship with Robert Dudley was quite as intimate as that, their moments of shared tenderness were very endearing. Saoirse Ronan played Mary Stuart with youthful energy, and it’s pretty clear how naive Mary was. Where Elizabeth commanded respect from her court, Mary struggled at every step.

There are some very interesting observations about gender roles that are probably more aspirational than accurate: one is when David Rizzio says that he feels more like a sister to Mary, than a brother, and she is very welcoming of this, and the other is when William Cecil acknowledges Elizabeth’s statement that she is a man, and treats her accordingly.

A final word about Josie Rourke: this is a very strong directorial debut. I enjoyed many productions while she was Artistic Director at the Donmar and I hope that we see more from her in the future.

So, as movies go, this is engaging and entertaining. It is not a history lesson but it still has lessons to teach us

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