Mary Queen of Scots review – power and passion in a battle royal

Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan excel as wily foes in Josie Rourke’s striking take on the rivalry between Elizabeth I and her Scottish cousinDirector Josie Rourke makes a very assured move from the theatre to the cinema screen in her feature debut, a full-blooded tale of personal and political rivalries told with wit, flair and passion.

Like Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite, which inventively revisits the court of Queen Anne (albeit with a very different tone), the setting may be historical but the core concerns are utterly contemporary: a tale of two “sisters” – Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie) and Mary Stuart (Saoirse Ronan) – caught in the middle of a power struggle between England and Scotland, Protestants and Catholics, men and women.We begin at the end, in 1587, with a candle being snuffed out as the Catholic Mary is led to the executioner’s block.

From here we flash back

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