Mary Shelley

In Cinemas Now

Elle Fanning and Douglas Booth star in this period drama following young author Mary Shelley as she's inspired to write iconic novel Frankenstein.

Mary Shelley, her step sister, and the poet Percy Shelley leave London to travel, drink, and shag their way around Europe, with the trio ending up at Lord Byron's Swiss holiday mansion. There, the reading of ghost stories turns into a challenge for the group to each write one themselves... 

Trailers

Directed by

Drama, Historical

120mins

Rating: PG Mild themes, sex scenes and coarse language

USA, UK, Luxembourg

Elle Fanning plays titular character Mary Shelley, who at a mere eighteen years of age anonymously penned the now iconic horror novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. The story of the book’s inception is a fascinating one and director Haifaa Al-Mansour and writer Emma Jensen have tackled a story that should be a celebration of a young woman’s talent and tenacity overcoming the odds, in a time when both these things were discouraged for the ladies. Somehow though, the anarchist spirit and rebellious journey she takes are never fully realised and it plays out rather as a soapy TV drama might, with many of the historical details fudged and some of the more scintillating nuggets transpiring in a series of unsatisfactory reveals.

After Mary and her lover, bohemian ratbag poet Percy Shelley, run away from Mary’s father—renowned radical philosopher William Godwin (Stephen Dillane)—with Mary’s step sister Claire Clairmont (Bel Powley) in tow, they form the era equivalent of a trio of emo teens living in their first flat; drinking cheap red wine, sleeping with one another, getting pregnant and living off Percy’s allowance - until he is cut off… Naturally, they escape their creditors and decamp to Lord Byron’s (Tom Sturridge) swish Swiss holiday mansion where one stormy evening he issues a literary challenge which sparks the origin of Frankenstein.

Although Fanning is a talented actor clearly devoted to her art, the occasional accent slip-ups niggled and the clunky and sometimes overblown dialogue often failed to ring true. Meanwhile, Douglas Booth, in the role of Percy, was probably going for a cheeky, rakish, laissez-faire countenance, unfortunately this mostly translated to the smug look of someone who has finally managed to remember all his lines, and what were perhaps meant to be frequent passionate outbursts instead come across as petulant tantrums.

With a bounty of scandals, births, deaths, and unconventional relationships to draw upon, this telling of an original and brilliant true tale is disappointingly mundane.

Hollywood Reporter

press

A passionate film about a woman's ideas.

Little White Lies

press

Elle Fanning's central performance adds needed weight, but all around her the tone is bizarre and the performances hammy.

Screen International

press

An intelligent balance between romantic drama and literary biography that could hold a solid appeal for upscale arthouse audiences.

The Guardian (UK)

press

Mary Shelley is a diverting enough biopic that features decent performances through an often vivid lens, but given the unusual facts of the author's life, a far more offbeat and far less rigid film could have been made here.

Variety (USA)

press

Impressively shot and suffused with a righteous feminist fire, the film is undercut by a confused and clunky script and a fundamental lack of thematic focus, turning an extraordinary story into didactic and disjointed melodrama.

Vulture

press

It boggles the mind that anyone would try to make something mannered from her wild, sad, huge life...a dismal book report that the author herself would have declared fusty.

Los Angeles Times

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Celebrates Mary Shelley for the trailblazing woman that she is, but hews far too close to convention to truly represent her life.

New York Times

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A reminder that England in the early 19th century remains a rich repository of stories and characters, and era that can be made to feel charmingly quaint and bracingly modern, on both the page and the screen.