I found this a very compelling and fascinating movie. As a non-Britain I lack sufficient historical knowledge to judge the accuracy of the script, but to me it all was quite convincing. I was only disappointed that the story was so harshly split up in two chronological halves, separated by some decades in time, I would like to have known how James grew up and became the person that he was at the beginning of part two. There are other differences between both parts of the series. In the first part the story evolves gradually, new people are introduced and you can watch the drama grow. The second part is more abrupt, like we have to board on an already moving train, there's an abundance of new characters (for instance the whole subversive group around Guy Fawkes) who are hardly introduced to us, so (for me at least) it was much harder to follow the historic goings on. The incidental, and rather unexpected direct facing of the viewer by some of the protagonists was confusing and seemed unnecessary, and strangely enough it it only occurred two or three times at the beginning of the second part, as if the writer and director themselves soon lost interest in this curious and a bit pretentious directorial ingenuity.
For the rest I very much enjoyed this movie, the settings are beautiful, there's no reluctance in showing some heavy violence (which enhanced the authenticity of the story) and the acting is overall of the highest level. I especially want to mention Clémence Poésy as Mary Queen of Scots, she is not only beautiful but gives a stunning performance as the young, at start insecure, but rapidly maturing queen. Her dealing with the the harsh and mistrusting protestant Scots, her sad marriage with an abusive power-hungry lord Darley (Paul Nicholls in a great performance!), her passionate liaison with Bothwell, it's all portrayed in a very moving and believable way. Steven Duffy as her scheming half-brother Lord James was equally great, and Kevin McKidd as Bothwell reminded me of Daniel Craig in Casino Royal, a mixture of rugged charm, wild passion and relentless violence in protecting his love: the strong and reliable suitor that every girl (and some boys!) dreams about!! The absolute star of the second half is Robert Carlyle as King James. That's partly due to the intelligent script, that gives this king an intriguing ambivalent character: hunger for power, at the same time awareness of his own sad posture and his shortcomings as a ruler, scolding his poor wife (who soon makes the best of it, developing into a Lady MacBeth-like power of her own) and mimic every bit of advice he get's (especially from the ominous Lord Cecil) out of lack of confidence. But Robert Carlyle turns this character into a real life person of flesh and blood in a totally convincing and almost blood-chilling way, like a Shakespearean Richard III, evoking admiration mingled with repulsion, while you can see the madness growing on him. He impressed me very, very much.
About the homosexual tendency in this version of King James there're already said some things here, I don't know anything about the historical backgrounds of it, but for me there was no need whatsoever to bring that in. Indeed, the forcing by the king of a lord into an (insinuated) royal blow-job looked anachronistically modern to me and a bit awkward, to say the least, and the portrayal by Robert Carlyle certainly didn't need this extra psychological excuse for his character-development.
I read some indignant comments here on the Queen Anne by Sira Stampe, but I liked her portrayal very much, she gave this stiff and disregarded queen poise and strength and she brought in the few laughs that at times gratefully counterbalanced the heaviness of this long (but certainly not over-long!) and dramatic story.
All in all a great watch and I rank it 9 out of 10.
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