Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie give powerful performances as the rivals in next week’s Wednesday film

Mary Queen of Scots

The rivalry between Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I has been repeatedly dramatized and documented, but most often from the perspective of the English monarch and the furore surrounding the Babington plot. Josie Rourke’s film instead takes Mary’s point of view, focusing on her early life in Britain and the events that predated their sisterly fallout.

There has been a lot of chatter about the feminist slant of Beau Willimon’s screenplay, but it’s hard to see how the issue could be avoided given the extraordinary pressures these two faced in what was still very much a patriarchal world. Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie both give powerful performances as the rivals, and while there is also some fun support from the likes of Guy Pearce and David Tennant, it is the leads that carry the movie.

The film is beautiful to look at and John Mathieson’s cinematography is perfectly matched by a sumptuous score from Max Richter. Liberties are taken with some of the facts of the case, but no more so than with many other period dramas.

The film’s abiding message – that we could all rub along nicely if only we talked to each other – seems timely indeed.

By David Vass