Hair is a problem from the outset. Men with long hair and even longer beards, features and expression hidden. David Tennant's voice declares he is John Knox. Scenes flit rapidly between the English and the Scottish courts and we struggle to make out where we are and who is who.
Mary has a long labour. Giving birth to James V1 of Scotland and James 1 of England is enough to confuse anyone unfamiliar with history and a voice behind us whispers an explanation. Mary's hair shows what a tough time women have in giving birth. Soarise Ronan has a subtly expressive face but this film doesn't do well for close-ups so relationships don't really gel. It's rather good on figures riding across wild Scottish landscapes.
There's a moment when a battle in a forest is overwhelmed by Highland cattle and Mary and Bothwell recognise courage in each other and exchange a meaningful look. But that's it for James Hepburn and the Bothwell marriage is all over is a second. 'Undress the queen, we're married.' Three husbands and each a disappointment
The film does show both Mary and Elizabeth as romantic figures in their own right, irrespective of their disappointing men !
Of course there's a challenge in finding a language that allows us to believe we are in the 16th century. It works for Shekhar Kapur's 1998 Elizabeth, with Cate Blanchett. But not in Mary Queen of Scots. Too much 21st century idiom. And imposing a feisty female agenda on the history of the Tudors and Stuarts doesn't work either.
Bolton Castle is one of the castles where Mary Stuart was held in captivity.