Mary Queen of Scots 4K Ultra HD Review

  • Actors: Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Jack Lowden, Joe Alwyn, David Tennant
  • Director: Josie Rourke
  • Writer: Beau Willimon
  • Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward
  • Disc Format: 4K, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish, English
  • Region: Region A/1 
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: 
  • Studio: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: February 26, 2019
  • Run Time: 124 minutes

        There is no question that Mary Queen of Scots is a good movie, well made in every technical aspect. The 4K Ultra HD edition highlights this fact, particularly in terms of the design elements. It is a good looking film, with a timely story (to the point that it occasionally feel on-the-nose) acted out by a handful of capable actors (albeit, many of which are made unrecognizable underneath too much stagy make-up), and yet there are also enough annoyances (as pointed out in these interruptions to the sentence) to prevent me from fully appreciating the quality. Mary Queen of Scots also has the misfortune of inevitable comparisons to The Favorite, a film which satirizes the very ideas that this film treats with melodramatic seriousness.

        Mary Queen of Scots follows the adult life of Mary Stuart (Saoirse Ronan), from her return to Scotland at the age of 18 to her death. At the age of 18, she has already been married off to become the Queen of France, only to be widowed a couple years later. We are told this in text at the beginning of the film, which starts with Mary’s decision to return to Scotland as the heir to the throne rather than accepting any number of marriage proposals. She also has a rival claim to the English throne, which is occupied by her cousin, Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie). As a way of asserting their dominance, Mary and Elizabeth begin a series of plots and betrayals against each other. The main difference between this film and The Favorite (aside from the aforementioned variation in tone) is the fact that there is a power struggle between these two women as they occupy two different nations.

        Despite never being in the same room, or even the same country, these women are in constant comparison of each other, especially in their independent reign. While Elizabeth rejects any suitable suitors, Mary makes the decision to take a husband for the sole purpose of producing an heir. All in all, Mary is seen to be far bolder than her cousin, who is mostly shown suffering, whether from the loneliness of power or the shame of a medical ailment. Some of this is certainly historically accurate, though there are moments behind closed door that seem more about the filmmaker’s feminist agenda than realism. While this is a suitable narrative to insert these ideas, I found myself occasionally annoyed by the lack of finesse or subtlety in drawing parallels to modern society.

        The 4K Ultra HD release for Mary Queen of Scots also comes with a Blu-ray and digital copy of the film. The Blu-ray contains the special features, which include a handful of featurettes, including one about the efforts to make a feminist Tudor film, and a commentary track with director Josie Rourke and composer Max Richter. Rourke is a theater director, with Mary Queen of Scots being her directorial debut in film. This may be why some of the nuance is lost, and why the film occasionally has the tendency to feel a little staged.    

Entertainment Value: 6/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7.5/10
Historical Significance:  6/10
Special Features: 6/10

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