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By midlandsmovies, Apr 18 2019 01:59PM



Mary Queen of Scots (2019) Dir. Josie Rourke


Based on John Guy's biography Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart, this new historical drama stars Saoirse Ronan as Mary and Margot Robbie as her cousin Queen Elizabeth I.


Covering the 1569 conflict between England and Scotland, the film opens with Mary returning to Scotland from France to take up her throne but she is immediately challenged by her inner circle and cleric John Knox (an incredibly bearded David Tennant) whilst Elizabeth, who is worried about Mary’s claim to her own throne, tries to arrange Mary’s marriage to an Englishman.


With both sides fearing a rebellion from each other and their own internal traitors, Mary’s marriage fails spectacularly and eventually she exiles herself in England. But the two queens’ devotion to their respective countries leads Mary to be sentenced to death.


Covering a tumultuous period, the film is quite timid in its drama but the two central leads are fantastic. The support cast are sadly just passable, and it’s unfortunate that a few admirable progressive themes stick out like a sore thumb in a film that, for the most part, is relatively historically accurate.


Two areas the film does excel in however is the cinematography and the costumes which is understandable given the director’s theatrical past. Glorious Scottish vistas are contrasted brilliantly with dark interiors where castle rooms are either candlelit or have striking streaks of sunlight beaming through thin windows.


At times reminiscent of a Holbein painting (as well as An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump by Joseph Wright), these locations are spectacularly filmed and Mary’s amazingly-designed period blood-red and blue dresses add tremendous colour to a film often drenched in Tudor dirt.


An acceptable diversion, Mary Queen of Scots never really steps a foot wrong, but for some reason is as forgettable as it is expertly made. A respectable way to spend a couple of hours, its cinematic charms won’t take your head off but should leave you satisfied as it marries outstanding performances with a scrutinising look at British history.


★★★ ½


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, May 23 2018 06:05PM



On Chesil Beach (2018) Dir. Dominic Cooke


Derby Film Festival audiences were treated to a preview of new release On Chesil Beach, a British film written by acclaimed novelist and screenwriter Ian McEwan and our writer Guy Russell takes a look at this new drama.


Set in 1962 Britain, a different nation to what we experience today, newlyweds Edward and Florence are enjoying their honeymoon in Dorset, overlooking Chesil Beach.


McEwan is most popular for writing the novel Atonement which went on to become a successful film in 2007. Here he adapts his own novel for the big screen, having not read this before going into the screening I was happy to discover such great writing.


The dialogue is rich and realistic whilst the characters seem familiar and grounded almost as if you have met these people before. I’m sure we have all met an awkward introvert like Edward (Billy Howle) or a focused academic like Florence (Saoirse Ronan). Both leads are brilliant and each compliment the other whilst they share the screen, and there are also great supporting turns from Anne-Marie Duff as Edward’s unstable mother and Samuel West as Florence’s wealthy, demanding father.


Told throughout a non-linear narrative jumping between various months of 1962, the film chronicles the couple’s timeline from the moment they meet to the moment they depart. We see every feeling and emotion as it enters the relationship, however knowing that the relationship is doomed as societal restrictions hinder both Edward and Florence.


Glimpses of a shift in society echo throughout the film as Florence organises Ban the Bomb rallies whilst her family argue over the Soviet Union at dinner.


Still, the film’s focus and the pivotal scene in which it revisits several times is their honeymoon in the bridal suite. Florence is hesitant and nervous about losing her virginity whilst Edward is awkward but keen, the difference in behaviour leads to a cruel altercation where the truth spills out.


On Chesil Beach is director Dominic Cooke’s debut feature film, I’m excited to see if he directs another adaption or lends his hand to an original screenplay. Helped with McEwan’s screenplay I don’t think I have seen such a courageous yet ambiguous attempt to cover sexual repression. Along with themes of class and the shift from the early 60’s to the infamous swinging 60’s, On Chesil Beach makes for a unique viewing.


8/10


Guy Russell


Twitter @BudGuyer


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