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July 12, 2018 at 11:01 AM EDT

Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie wear dueling crowns embroiled in a bitter row in the first trailer for Josie Rourke’s upcoming awards hopeful Mary Queen of Scots.

Primed and ready for an Oscar-positioning release later this year, the period piece explores the lives of Mary Stuart (Ronan), who in 1561 returns to Scotland as a widow grieving in the shadow of her reign as Queen of France. At the time of her arrival, Elizabeth I (Robbie) holds the English throne, and quickly grows anxious over Mary’s presence, which threatens her rule. A turbulent political period — punctuated by manipulative counsel and secret power plays by those around the women — ensues.

Adapted from John Guy’s historical biography My Heart Is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots, the project also marks the feature directorial debut for experienced theater helmer Josie Rourke. The U.K. native previously oversaw several recordings of stage productions (most notably the filming of 2011’s Much Ado About Nothing starring David Tennant), though Mary will be her first big screen cinematic venture to date.

“They were both, in their own ways, making huge sacrifices to try to operate in this male-dominated world. It’s not one against the other. It’s both of them against a particular environment that pitted them against each other,” Rourke told EW of the film’s focal characters late last year. Robbie added: “Everyone manipulated their relationship. It’s complicated, it’s tragic, and it’s bizarre. The only other person in the world who could understand the position they were in was each other.”

With a wealth of Oscar-verified talent working on the film, Mary Queen of Scots is widely expected to be a major player on the awards trail later this year. In addition to Ronan and Robbie — both of whom have prior nods under their respective belts — costume designer Alexandra Byrne (Elizabeth: The Golden Age) won her first Oscar statuette in 2008; the year after, editor Chris Dickens followed suit for his work on Slumdog Millionaire, while screenwriter and House of Cards creator Beau Willimon (The Ides of March) and cinematographer John Mathieson (Gladiator) have been recognized over the years with nominations from the Academy in their respective categories as well.

Mary Queen of Scots — also starring Tennant, Gemma Chan, Guy Pearce, and Joe Alwyn — is set for release on Dec. 7. Watch the film’s first trailer above.

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