Category Archives: drama

FILM REVIEW: Mary Queen of Scots (2018)

Having been in the pipeline for several years, Mary Queen of Scots, directed by Josie Rourke, finally makes it to the big screen. Based on John Guy’s biography, Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart, with a screenplay adapted by Beau Willimon, the film sees last year’s best actress contenders, Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, star together at last, even if it’s just in one scene that has historical purists all riled up.

After becoming Queen of France at age sixteen, and then a widow at just eighteen, Mary Stuart (Ronan) returns to Scotland to reclaim her throne. However, England and Scotland fall under the rule of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I (Robbie), and so the scrambling begins.

What ensues is what can best be described as an absolute clusterf**k. Not in terms of the film per se, but rather more representative of the shitstorm that is the monarchy system, particularly in 1569. The storyline is somewhat difficult to follow because of the sheer absurdity of it all – who should marry who, who should screw over who, who should actually screw who. Perhaps history buffs will have a better chance of understanding, but then again, the film seems to have produced a lot of anger about its historical inaccuracies, so perhaps nobody wins.mary queen of scots poster

While it is a period film, Mary Queen of Scots sets itself apart as a contemporary film, particularly with the inclusion of queer supporting characters as well as its sex scenes. The main characters are women, though not surprisingly for the time, despite their strength of character and their supposed power, they still get their shit dictated by a group of men. Supportive female friendships are portrayed between the queens and their ladies in waiting, while the men do all the bitching and manipulating.

Ronan and Robbie are naturally exceptional in the lead roles, their one scene together the clear highlight of the film as their contradictory feelings for each other – fear, admiration, spite, and love – are all apparent. It’s a shame we only get to see them together for a few minutes. Guy Pearce, David Tennant, and Gemma Chan have small roles, as well as a host of other lesser known actors, but they all pale in comparison to the women we’ve come to see.

The stunning Margot Robbie uglies it up again under a mountain of make-up and prosthetics, in stark contrast to Saoirse Ronan’s naturally beautiful Mary. The hair and make-up is Oscar-worthy, along with Alexandra Byrne’s costumes. It’s not, however, the best sign when as a viewer you find yourself contemplating how much time royalty spent getting their hair done in the morning, instead of the complexities of British history. It’s a gorgeous film starring gorgeous and talented actresses but its plot, much like how Mary ended up, is a bit of a mess. Props to Rourke who attempted to portray a trueish story, but Mary Queen of Scots suffers in its close proximity to the recent release of The Favourite, which is the far superior choice if you want to see royalty portrayed on screen in an entertaining fashion.

3 stars

This review was first published on 14th January 2019 at Film Blerg.

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FILM REVIEW: Eighth Grade (2018)

For the third year running, the New Year brings us another terrific film centred on a teenage girl. Last year it was Saoirse Ronan in Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, in 2017 it was Hailee Steinfeld in Kelly Fremon Craig’s The Edge of Seventeen. In 2019 it’s Bo Burham’s Eighth Grade. And that a man has managed to capture the awkwardness of a teenage girl so brilliantly is astounding. Continue reading FILM REVIEW: Eighth Grade (2018)

THEATRE ON FILM REVIEW: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (2018)

Back in 2000, the film gods gave us Billy Elliot, a story about a boy who wanted to break gender stereotypes and be a ballet dancer. In a supporting role, Billy’s friend Michael is revealed to enjoy cross-dressing, with this scene celebrated in one of the best numbers in the stage musical adaptation (which premiered on the West End in 2005), ‘Expressing Yourself’. Elton John’s lyrics include “What the hell’s wrong with wearing a dress, being who you want to be… What the hell is wrong with expressing yourself? For trying to be free”. It’s a beautiful moment but its place in the show is mostly as a comical reprieve from the drama of the main character. Continue reading THEATRE ON FILM REVIEW: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (2018)

FILM REVIEW: The Children Act (2017)

Ian McEwan’s penchant for fine storytelling is on display once more in The Children Act. Based on his novel of the same name, McEwan has adapted his own work yet again for the screen with terrific results following on from the recent On Chesil Beach. Continue reading FILM REVIEW: The Children Act (2017)

FILM REVIEW: Beautiful Boy (2018)

Based on the memoirs of David and Nic Sheff, Beautiful Boy portrays a family’s ordeal with drug addiction with grace. Not to be confused with the 2010 film of the same name which focused on the parents of a mass shooter, the title does similarly refer to a well-loved child who hit rock bottom despite support. Continue reading FILM REVIEW: Beautiful Boy (2018)

FILM REVIEW: A Star is Born (2018)

Following the 1937 original, and two further remakes starring Judy Garland in 1954 and Barbra Streisand in 1976, the current version of A Star is Born has been in the pipeline for some time. With Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood expressing interest in directing, and Beyoncé attached as the lead for some time, the final product is brought to the screen by Bradley Cooper, with Lady Gaga as its star. Continue reading FILM REVIEW: A Star is Born (2018)

FILM REVIEW: A Simple Favour (2018)

Based on the book of the same name by Darcey Bell, A Simple Favour sees Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick), a mummy blogger, trying to raise her young son (Joshua Satine) on her own while keeping up an Energiser bunny-like enthusiasm. Despite her willingness to get involved she hasn’t made many friends, and quickly becomes enamoured by one of the other mothers, the mysterious Emily Nelson (Blake Lively). After sharing a series of playdates where they drink cocktails and exchange secrets, Emily asks Stephanie for a simple favour while her husband (Henry Golding) is away: to pick up her son (Ian Ho) from school. A few days later, there’s still no sign of Emily. Continue reading FILM REVIEW: A Simple Favour (2018)