TIFF 2013: MARY: Queen of Scots – Capsule Review

Director: Thomas Imbach
Writers:  Thomas Imbach, Stefan Zweig (novel), Andrea Staka, Eduard Habsburg
Starring: Camille Rutherford, Sean Biggerstaff, Aneurin Barnard
Runtime: 120min
Rating: 14A

MARY: Queen of Scots is a dramatic period piece that offers a new perspective on well-known historical events. Directed by Thomas Imbach and starring Camille Rutherford in the title role, this film relates the major events of the life of Mary, the Queen of Scotland and France, from her point of view. The film achieves a delicate balance as it dramatizes historical events while speculating as to the emotions felt by characters and the reasoning behind their decisions.  Much of the film is related as a series of voice-over monologues presented as letters from Mary to her cousin, Queen Elizabeth of England, allowing the audience a glimpse into Mary’s mind. Rutherford presents a captivating portrayal of a Queen who may be a kind and patient individual but is simultaneously a strong and confident leader, and it becomes easy to pity a woman whom we know will ultimately be abandoned by all. It is the mixture of the known political and the speculative personal within this film that truly fascinates; we may know the history, but now we are presented with a possible backstory. Imbach creates an eerie tone within his film with his usage of unsettling music, dark lighting, and stark landscapes. In addition, an ongoing puppet show motif brilliantly reveals the true relationship between Mary and Elizabeth that could not otherwise by conveyed through biased first-person narration. A highly symbolic piece complimented by strong acting and all the extravagance that comes with a period piece, MARY: Queen of Scots does not disappoint.

Overall rating: 3.9/5

Photo Credit: Toronto International Film Festival