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Mary Queen of Scots

The lush costume drama starring Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie is currently in theaters.

Alissa Wilkinson covers film and culture for Vox. Alissa is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.

Metacritic score: 64

Two strong performances from Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie anchor Mary Queen of Scots, a costume drama about two women — Mary Stuart and Elizabeth Tudor, a.k.a. Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I of England — as they try to rule their rightful domains while being provoked and manipulated by power-hungry but inescapable men around them.

Directed by Josie Rourke from a screenplay by House of Cards scribe Beau Willimon, the film mainly focuses on the ways that Mary and Elizabeth fall prey to and then rise above the collective passions of the disloyal men who are their subjects. Those men often pay lip service to their queen while backbiting and plotting against her — and the women’s best ammunition against said plotting may be to join together and form an alliance.

The prevailing mood at the end of Mary Queen of Scots feels familiar to many in 2018: Why have men ever been allowed to rule? There’s something strikingly recognizable in the portraits of men dragged away by their passions and egos when they get too close to power. You’d almost say it was modern, if it wasn’t so obviously historical, too.

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