MARY SHELLEY, the latest film from director Haifaa Al-Mansour, takes viewers on a journey through the life of author Mary Shelley, her tumultuous love affair, and the inspiration behind her famed novel, Frankenstein. The film stars Elle Fanning (The Neon Demon) as Mary Shelley, Douglas Booth (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), Bel Powley (Wildling), Tom Sturridge (On the Road), Ben Hardy (X-Men: Apocalypse), and Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones).
Most all of us are familiar with Mary Shelley, the author, who gave us the classic horror novel, Frankenstein. However, few knew her life leading up to conceiving the famed novel. In MARY SHELLEY, we meet young Mary at the age of 18, a dreamer who finds her escape in the many books and stories that her father owns. When she is sent away to live with her cousin, she meets the handsome and brilliant poet, Percy Shelley (Booth). This kicks off a torrid affair with sparks of intense passion and unquenchable love but ends just as tragically as it began, resulting in the inspiration that Mary needs to pen her masterwork and leave her mark in this world.
I think it’s important to note that I haven’t read Frankenstein (I know, I know) nor do I know much about Mary Shelley’s life. With that said, I feel as though my review may be vastly different than someone who is familiar with Mary’s life and has read her famed novel. Regardless, I really enjoyed MARY SHELLEY and found it to be a very intriguing look into the author’s life, even if some of the more prominent themes were exaggerated for entertainment value. Other than MARY SHELLEY, the only other movie I’ve watched that delves into the torrid love affair that Mary had with Percy was in the 1986 cult horror film, Gothic.
In terms of the acting, I think that is what makes this film flourish. Elle Fanning was perfectly cast as Mary Shelley, exuding both an innocence yet a desire to rebel and become the woman she wants on her own terms. Having just watched Bel Powley in Wildling, I was delighted to see her once again as Mary’s sister, Claire. Douglas Booth was fantastic as Percy Shelley, as he had to take on both a charming persona as well as being able to show his troubled and dishonest side. The chemistry between these three characters, Mary, Claire, and Percy, was palpable and believable which I think helped in making the film seem much more realistic.
As for the story itself, I was impressed with what Emma Jensen and Haifaa Al-Mansour crafted. Again, those who know of Mary’s backstory may disagree with me, which if that’s the case, please feel free to send me information about Mary Shelley as I would definitely be interested in knowing more. In regards to MARY SHELLEY, I was captivated throughout the entire film, especially as the viewer begins to see how she was able to transform her experiences into a narrative for a horror novel. I did feel like the film skimmed over some of this towards the end and if I had to critique MARY SHELLEY it would be that I wish the film took the time to really showcase her achievement.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed MARY SHELLEY as it was able to keep my attention throughout its 2 hour run-time and made me want to learn more about Shelley’s life as well as finally convincing me to read Frankenstein. Though there were some areas that I wished were more expanded, I appreciated seeing Mary grow into a strong and independent woman and I think having a female director at the helm really allowed for that to flourish. Fans of historical films with a focus on horror will find a lot to love with Haifaa Al-Mansour’s MARY SHELLEY.
MARY SHELLEY arrives in NY & LA theaters on May 25, 2018 and On-Demand starting Friday, June 1, 2018.
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