Two queens, one throne

Two queens, one throne

Robert Tanitch reviews the latest DVDs

Mary Queen of Scots (Focus). Mary, married at 13 and widowed at 18, returns to Scotland, raising fears in Protestant England that unless Elizabeth does something (I.e. marry and have a baby) they might have a Catholic on the throne. The rivalry between the two queens is the stuff of drama. The big scene, their face to face confrontation, never happened. It’s pure fiction. Friedrich Schiller’s play (premiered in 1800) made their meeting much more thrilling than Beau Willimon’s modern screenplay does. Josie Rourke, in her film directorial debut, has a 21st century feminist approach and makes Mary a much more sympathetic character than usual. Saoirse Ronan’s Mary upstages Margot Robbie’s Elizabeth. The murder of David Rizzo (Ismael Cruz Cordova) is a high spot. The strong cast includes Joe Alwyn as Darnley, Guy Pearce as Cecil and a totally unrecognizable David Tennant as Knox.


Room at the Top (BFI). This adaptation of John Braine’s novel, directed by Jack Clayton in the late 1950s, had the same impact in the cinema as John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger had in the theatre. The censor gave it an X certificate for its sexual frankness. The story is set in a bleak Yorkshire town. Joe Lampton (Laurence Harvey), born in a slum, has ambitions to get out of the working class by marrying the naïve daughter (Heather Sears) of a super rich couple (Donald Wolfit and Ambrosine Phillpotts). Everybody advises him to stick to his own class. His true love is an unhappily married French woman (Simone Signoret) ten years his senior, Signoret won an Oscar for her performance.


Beautiful Boy (StudioCanal) is a bleak and depressing film about drug addiction, as seen from a parental view, and concentrates on the relationship between a father (Steve Carell) and his 18-year-old son (Timothée Chalamet) who is in denial about his addiction to crystal meth. (Drug overdose is the leading cause of death for Americans under 50.) Dad tries to understand but doesn’t know how to help him. Relapse follows relapse follows relapse. The boy’s sordid life is never shown. Carrel is excellent and Chalamet has his best scene in a restaurant when he is in complete disarray and fails to reunite with his dad.


No Kidding (StudioCanal), also known as Beware of Children is (and I kid you not) a feeble, crass, unfunny 1960 British comedy from the Carry On stable. A married couple (Leslie Phillips and Geraldine McEwan) run a holiday home for children of the rich who have too much money and not enough fun. The spoiled children can do what they like. A busybody (Irene Handl) wants to shut the home down. The sooner the better.



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