Robert The Bruce Review – Convincing, An Impressive, Attention-Grabbing Period Piece

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Robert The Bruce, from Screen Media Films, brings to the screen the story of Scotland’s fight for freedom against England’s powerful army, of hopelessness after repeated defeats, despair, sacrifice, determination, and the cost of freedom and independence.

Directed by Richard Gray, Robert The Bruce stars Angus MacFayden, who also co-wrote the script, Anna Hutchison, Zach McGowan, Gabriel Bateman, Talitha Bateman, Brandon Lessard, Emma Kenney, Diarmaid Murtagh, Melora Walters, Shane Coffey, Daniel Portman, Kevin McNally, Jared Harris, and Judah Nelson.

The film begins with a story narrated Morag, played by Anna Hutchison, of a supposed treaty between Robert The Bruce played by Angus MacFayden and John Comyn played by Jared Harris. What was supposed to be a joining became a double cross.

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Just as treachery exposes itself and the two men begin a fight to the death, the story stops and moves into a small croft, where Morag, her son Scot, played by Gabriel Bateman, her two adopted children, a daughter Iver, played by Talitha Bateman, and a son Carney, played by Brandon Lessard, both orphans of her relatives, are listening attentively to the story.

Soon it is Scot’s eleventh birthday. Still carefree, the boy asks for more of the story and she finishes the story, unsure how much is folklore and what truly happened when Robert The Bruce and John Comyn met prepared to die for the cause of freedom.

It is 1306, and the fight to free Scotland had taken 10,000 men, the loyalty to their crowned King was waning as the King of England placed a price on his head. Each battle resulted in defeat and death. The war lingered on, the men had no fight in them, and Robert The Bruce battle weary disbanded them, telling them to return to their homes, wives, and mothers.

Once he gave the order, dissension rose in the ranks, as the price on his head was enough to make a man rich, 50 Gold pieces. It was then he became a hunted man. Unsure of his next move, he wondered in the hills.

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The family, we see, has a quaint existence, Morag lost her husband to the wars, as did many others. As the story moves between the escape of Robert The Bruce who was attacked and wounded by three of his own men, and his need to find safe shelter before the winter sets in, and the family who are unaware of the destiny that awaits.

It is here that the stories merge and as we see Morag and Scot at the grave of her husband. Ivar, an expert archer, downs a buck with a single arrow, and the family food supply is secured. As they are preparing to move the animal Scot runs ahead and finds a man, whom he immediately recognizes as Robert The Bruce, nearly dead of hypothermia.

Knowing to help him is treason by law, and yet to allow him to die is sin against God and country, their loyalty remains to the King. The family, led by steely-willed Morag, decide to nurse him back to health. As winter sets in, he soon becomes well, stronger, and even as he decides to leave, she explains, until you are well, you stay. He becomes a part of their unique family, and they become the first soldiers in his new army.

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The price on his head, of course becomes the driving force and the Sheriff, played by Zack McGowan, is also Morag’s ex-brother-in-law, so his visits are often unannounced. Before the winter, he explained he would be back in the spring and take Carney, as he is of age.

As the family becomes Robert’s extended family, he explains if he is to stay they will eventually have to fight, as he heals he trains them for battle with tested strategies, prepares the land for a standoff.

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Robert The Bruce, even for those who are not familiar with the story or history of the Scottish/English war, is excellent. I enjoyed it. It captures the attention, compelling, with plot, intrigue. 

The film brought together a talented cast, portraying the roles with authenticity. The story was very well-written, the cinematography stunning, and the direction, which included intense battle scenes, was excellent.  It is an authentic, brilliant, character driven period piece.

Robert The Bruce, convincing, persuasive, gripping, premieres Friday, April 24, 2020 on VOD and across digital platforms. See it.

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